Transport is key to growth plans in Abu Dhabi

25 November 2009

The emirate wants to spend $68bn on public transport schemes between now and 2015

The government of Abu Dhabi must knuckle down if it is to solve its traffic problems. Abu Dhabi is trying to develop key sectors such as tourism, industry and trade to grow its non-oil economy. If these sectors are to take off, the emirate needs an efficient transport system.

The emirate wants to spend $68bn on public transport schemes such as the metro, tram, ferry and bus services between now and 2015. It also has a series of projects to revamp trade and tourism hubs, which have price tags and deadlines of their own.

For example, government bodies are also working on the $10bn development of the Khalifa Port and the $6.8bn midfield terminal at Abu Dhabi International airport. The plans are massive, and so are the expectations on Abu Dhabi’s government to deliver.

The blueprint may be in place, but with the construction and finance sectors still smarting from the global economic downturn, progress has been slow. The Department of Transport has yet to award a contract to design the metro network, even though it has had since May to evaluate the rival bids. While the completion date for phase one is optimistically set for 2015, design work on the project will now not start until 2010 at the earliest.

If the emirate manages to deploy its cash effectively, it will solve its traffic problems and set an example for the rest of the country. However, if Abu Dhabi fails to turn its mighty oil revenues into vital transport infrastructure, and if projects are delayed with escalating construction costs, Abu Dhabi and its traffic will both be going nowhere.

It is time for the UAE’s richest emirate to prove that it can manage more than just oil and gas projects.

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