Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has appointed advisers for the development of the emirate’s first public private partnership (PPP).

A consortium of the US’ headquartered Deloitte, Australia’s WorleyParsons and DLA Piper have been awarded the consultancy contract for a project to develop a water buses scheme along the coastline of Dubai.

The project involves the transfer of ownership of around 29 water buses, due to be delivered to the RTA in October, to the private sector, which will then build and operate them as a public transport system along the coastline of Dubai. The water buses scheme also has the potential to be expanded along the coastline of the UAE to incorporate Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

The Deloitte consortium was awarded the contract in late September after the RTA began approaching potential advisers in August.

A source close to the project says the RTA hopes to get the project awarded by the end of the first quarter of 2011. A list of prequalified bidders should be in place by the end of November 2010 and the request for proposals (RFP) issued before the end of the year.

The source adds, “The initial delivery will involve 29 vessels, but that could go up if the scheme is successful.” The contract to purchase the vessels could be worth around AED200m ($56m), but the total cost of developing the project, including constructing the stations and integrating the project with other transport schemes in Dubai, could be much larger.

Despite the tight timeframe for the award of the contract to the private sector, several key aspects have yet to be finalised. It is unclear how much financing will be required from the private sector developer and what level of guarantee the RTA or government of Dubai will provide.