Image copyright Hit Entertainment
The Metro has so far eluded me. I don’t mean that I haven’t managed to get a ride yet - I have been staying away precisely because I don’t want to get stranded in a crowd of 2,000 shoving, jostling punters while all the inevitable teething problems are ironed out. (Isn’t it funny that teething problems are always declared ‘inevitable’ only after they have occurred?)
Mind you, I would love to know quite who was so utterly asinine as to put a big red DO NOT TOUCH THIS button within reach of any Dubai audience.
I have pointed out before, on blog and radio alike, that I am amazed that anyone could think we needed an ‘awareness raising’ advertising campaign that poured millions down the plughole in telling us that there’s a metro there. We can see the blasted thing – we’ve spent two years queuing up to drive around the holes and pilings, watching the roller-coaster swoops and loops of track being slotted together and admiring the (beautiful, incidentally) ‘armadillo’ stations.
The lack of informational campaigns on the other hand, the absence of any concerted attempt to build awareness and understanding, has arguably contributed to the many problems experienced over the first few days of operations. Quite apart from the lack of 'traditional' media such as leaflets, Z-cards and the like, there's no dedicated website and the FAQs and so on available on the 'Rail Agency' section of the RTA website site are useless - and it doesn't look as if the rail site has been updated since early August!
Perhaps explaining the seeming lack of useful information, Gulf News today (not, for instance, six months ago) tells us the RTA is to 'launch a campaign to educate the public on how to use the Metro and the culture of train travel'. Duh.
But no, the reason it's eluded me is none of the above. It's that it doesn’t appear to start from anywhere near me or end up anywhere I’d want to go. For instance, I could see myself parking up at Deira City Centre, doing a wander around the shops and then taking the Metro up to, say, Mall of the Emirates. But then I’d likely fall foul of the time-limited parking.
My office is in Satwa, a significant distance from the nearest Metro Station – as is pretty much anyone on the coastal side of Sheikh Zayed Road. I can’t realistically get a taxi to the station as Dubai has a minimum fare of Dhs10 for a cab. So If I want to go to Dubai Internet City for a meeting, I’m taking a cab to the station, taking the train and then taking a cab to my meeting. That’s Dhs24 for the one-way journey. If I want to play feeder buses, I can. But I don't know where they operate from and to. And I'm not really into waiting around for buses when I work for a business that bills my time by the hour. Even if I can get the bus in a timely fashion and connect to a waiting train, ("Hold the train for Mr McNabb"), I'm in for at least a 40 minute journey - one that otherwise would take me 20 minutes by car.
So far I’m struggling to see quite why, ahem, it’s ‘my metro’. I’m sure with time I’ll find out a way to use it. But for now it remains a complete irrelevance to me. Except for the amusing anecdotes being shared by intrepid friends who have chosen to ride early - from two-hour waits on static trains to British security guards who've never lived here before treating locals like you'd treat a queue-jumper back in Blighty (the results were apparently quite comic), through to delayed trains, massive queues and general cluelessness.
Nobody has so far used the word debacle, incidentally. I claim the first.
PS: This week's got a sort of transport theme. Unintentional, I can assure you!
PPS: If you're interested in some good consumer feedback from the horse's mouth, take a look here on the UAE Community Blog! Fascinating stuff!