Palm monorail tried and tested

We tried out the new Palm Jumeirah monorail - here's how it went...

It's blue, it travels at up to 70km an hour and cost a cool US$80million per km to build. Today, this Time Outer was one of the first people to try it out.

The brand new Palm Jumeirah monorail, which will run from the foot of the man-made island to its furthest point, The Atlantis hotel, is being touted by its owners, Nakheel, as the first transport system of its kind in the Middle East.

Today, Marwan Al Qamzi, the man who headed up the project for the property firm, boarded one of his gleaming, bullet-shaped trains to introduce his ‘baby' to the world.

‘For me this is a great moment. I remember when we just broke the ground some time in 2006, if I remember correctly March 2006. And to see your baby growing is a great feeling,' the executive managing director of Nakheel Southern Projects said.

Mr Al Qamzi has a lot to feel proud of. Not only are his beautiful new trains the first of their kind in the Middle East, but his team - including the Japanese constructors and the Singaporean firm taking day-to-day control of the service - are at the vanguard of a public transport revolution in Dubai that will see the monorail link up with the Dubai metro and tram service after they are completed.

Costing Dhs15 for a single journey and Dhs25 for a return trip, passengers will be able to enjoy a lofty view of the glittering Palm and the hotels and exclusive villas that line its fronds. For the moment, however, their only destination will be the gigantic, pink Atlantis Hotel, which veers into view as the 5.45km journey nears its end. While there are stations in place for the Palm Mall and Trump Tower, neither of these projects is yet built.

Despite the lack of stations along the way, passengers will travel in comfort, in four state-of-the-art unmanned trains, capable of carrying a total of 2,400 passengers a day. Mr Al Qamzi said Nakheel opted for the sleek, ultra-modern monorail system partly because it would be attractive to tourists.

‘If you look at Disney they have monorail because it attracts tourists and we thought that this would be one of the anchor attractions at Palm Jumeirah. So, aside the technicality of it, we thought it was a real tourist attraction.'

He said that there were plans to extend the monorail to link up with the Dubai metro on Sheikh Zayed Road, probably at the nearby Tecom station, after it is completed in September 2009.

In 2015 the Al Sufouh tram project is scheduled to open, with a stop right next to the giant main monorail station, which stands at the foot of the Palm, next the One&Only Royal Mirage.

This has car-parking space for 1,500 cars and will be able to hold 4,500 in the future. But Mr Al Qamzi said that Nakheel would consider ‘various ways' to convince people to travel by public transport.

‘It could be by increasing parking fees somewhere, so we tell people this is the free parking and if you drive on you will be paying. This is one option... we need to work on a full system. The way we see it is people have already started to look at public transportation, but we also need to push from our side to convince them.'

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