(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The public transport network in Abu Dhabi is set for a major multi-phase expansion and a Dh470-million revamp. Soon, there will be an array of low-carbon emission buses, new stops, more routes, fare revisions and added facilities, a top official from the Integrated Transport Centre (ITC) said on Tuesday.
To start with, 40 minibuses named 'Sprinter' will be added to the network from October 11 - just four days ahead of the implementation of new toll collection system.
"These 40 minibuses will serve suburban areas locally. The routes and stops will be announced next month. In the future, should there be more demand on some routes, we may introduce these buses to the city.
"The new buses will support ITC's plan to enhance the public transport service network just before the implementation of the toll gate system on October 15," said Ateeq Mohammed Al Mazrouei, director of operations for the public transport sector at ITC.
The new bus has a capacity of 25 passengers - 13 seats, with four seats that can be added and standing space for eight people.
There are seat belts, a smart payment system, route tracking, along with CCTV cameras, USB ports and facility to support people of determination.
These buses will be added to existing 'hail and ride' services, enhancing frequency during peak hours. The eco-friendly minibus marks a shift from Euro 4 emission standards to Euro 6.
"In the Middle East, we are the first country to use this model for public transport," Al Mazrouei said.
The service will improve connectivity between remote areas in Abu Dhabi region. This will come as a boon for residents, who live in the suburbs and interior areas, and wish to opt for public transport as the toll gate system gets implemented, he added.
Revised bus fares to be implemented soon
There are fare revisions in the offing, starting with suburban services.
"For example, while travelling from Bani Yas to Al Falah, you will be charged Dh2, but when you take another bus from there - say, to the Abu Dhabi airport - you just pay the per-kilometre charge of five fils and not another Dh2 for boarding," said Ateeq Mohammed Al Mazrouei, director of operations for the public transport sector at ITC.
"It's the same when you travel within Al Shahama, your local travel will cost Dh2, but when you take the regional service to Abu Dhabi, there will be just additional five fils per kilometre," he said.
This facility can be availed of when passengers transfer from one bus to the next within one or two hours.
"It depends on the routes. We still have some routes with a running time of two hours or more. This facility will be launched in suburban services and later extended to the city in the coming phases."
Also, the flat rate of Dh2 could be changed later on.
"It (Dh2) might change in one of the phases. At the end, it will be done only for the benefit of the passengers."
New fleet of buses, more Hafilat card reload machines
In the next two years, Abu Dhabi's fleet of 304 buses will be replaced with 327 new ones purchased at a cost of Dh473 million.
"The first 304 buses in Abu Dhabi will be retired. All new buses will be Euro 6 emission standards," Al Mazrouei said. Also, 147 bus trips will be added to the bus network on the main bridges connecting to Abu Dhabi Island.
Out of the additional trips, 124 will be available during peak hours. "This will help reduce the number of private vehicles entering the city and reduce traffic congestion."
Al Mazrouei pointed out that the existing buses can be swapped at times, depending on the demand and flow of passengers.
"If an area has lots of passengers, then a 49-seater will not be enough, so we can use the 80-seater city buses."
There will also be more locations to buy and reload the Hafilat card. Apart from bus stops and stations, the machine will be placed in hospitals, malls and popular public places.
"By September, the full picture will be clear on all these developments," he added.
'SPRINTER': NEW MINIBUS OF ABU DHABI
>40 'Sprinter' minibuses to be added to the Capital's public transport network
>Capacity: 25 passengers (13 seats, four extra seats, standing space for 8)
>Eco-friendly (Euro 6 emission standards*)
>Smart payment system
>Equipped with route tracking technologies, CCTV cameras
>USB ports available
>Has facilities for people of determination
>To serve suburban areas (routes and stops to be announced next month)
>Out on October 11