The first trams for the Al-Sufouh tramway in Dubai are expected to be delivered before the end of the year, says Vincent Prou, managing director for the UAE at Frances Alstom Transport.
Speaking at MEEDs Mena Rail & Metro Summit, being held in Abu Dhabi on 28-30 October, he said test runs of the trains have taken place on a purpose-built track in France in recent months.
The tramway is 10 kilometres (km) in length, connecting the Dubai Marina area of the emirate to Media City and Knowledge Village. In phase 2, the line will expand by a further 4km to connect with the Mall of the Emirates.
Alstom has constructed the tramway in a consortium with Belgiums Besix. Alstom also has the 13-year maintenance contract for the system, while the UKs Serco has a 75-month, $17.9m deal to operate the tramway.
Phase 1 of the project is due to begin operations in 2014.
Prou said there are a number of challenges when developing tramways in the Middle East: highlighting climate issues; the need to integrate the scheme into the urban environment; and the fact that the concept of tram and rail networks are relatively new to the region.
We should not underestimate the level of challenges not just within the scope of the contractor, but between the contractor, the stakeholders and the various authorities that have to manage a new project, he said.
There is a need for a great degree of flexibility from the contractor and for it to have the flexibility to re-engineer its solutions.
Prou added that if tram projects are approached through a traditional customer-contractor model, there was a high chance of failure, recommending customers, consultants and contractors work very closely together. According to him, the use of turnkey structures are often the best way to develop tram schemes.