Dubai launches subway system

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MARCO WERMAN: Today the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates inaugurated its first metro system. It's still a work-in-progress but when the whole system is finished the Dubai Metro promises to be the world's longest, driverless train system. It boasts more than 43 miles of tracks and 29 stations. Officials in the city wanted to put an end to the traffic congestion that plagued the city but the recession has meant fewer crowds and fewer cars in Dubai. John Alexander Smith is a professor of architecture and interior design at American University of Dubai. He says the new metro's design is flawless.

JOHN ALEXANDER SMITH: The stations themselves are incredibly sleek and so distinguished looking. The interiors are very [INDISCERNBILE] detailed. Everything is in very good balance � the signage, the color schemes, and so on.

WERMAN: Who's actually going to use the subway? Not the sheikhs who have their Bentley's I suppose.

SMITH: Well you never know. There is in fact a gold class in one of the carriages. One of the carriages is split into two. There's a ladies only section or families only section. And the other section is what we call gold class and that's roughly double the fare for the regular economy class. So I think it will attract many people. I can see for example motorists coming through from say Abu Dhabi, the other big city in the Emirates, an they'll leave their car somewhere on the west of the city and take a ride right into town. And so many of these stations are located conveniently for offices and shopping malls and of course the international airport itself. So I really see it as an opportunity for everybody. Because I am really fed up with some of these traffic jams.
WERMAN: Describe those traffic jams for us.

SMITH: Well historically, in the last five to six years, Dubai has been a tremendous construction site on a metropolitan scale. It was a real recipe for strangulation. But over the last year it's quieted down a bit and this is because of several reasons. One is there's a sort of policy to take into consideration � toll stations. And this has redistributed some of the traffic into the other road options.

WERMAN: At about 50 cents per ride on the metro do you think Dubai is going to be able to recoup its cost for this metro system?

SMITH: Well the original budget estimate of the metro I believe was something about $4 billion US. And this was revised up to $7.5 billion. But as I understand it the metro target is something like 4.5 million passengers daily by the year 2020. Compared to say Delhi you know which is 18 stations, Hong Kong which is 17, and Singapore which is 16. Dubai is going to have something like 29 stations next year. So I really think they're taking this challenge on and they're determined to make it work.

WERMAN: Who did do the design for this metro in Dubai?

SMITH: From the engineering side there was a consortium of Japanese engineering experts. But there was also a consortium of designers, engineers etcetera, significantly led by French elements. So it's a truly international project.

WERMAN: John Alexander Smith, a professor of architecture and interior design at American University in Dubai. Thank you very much.

SMITH: It's been a great pleasure Marco.