Al Safouh Tram Project, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Al Safouh Tram Project in Dubai is a 14km long route that mainly follows the Al Safouh Road, linking Madinat Jumeirah and the Mall of the Emirates with Dubai Marina and the Jumeirah Beach Residence. It is the first modern application of trams in the Gulf region and is being constructed in two phases.

Al Safouh is a district adjoining the western Dubai seafront. It accommodates some free economic zones, several retail centres and is associated with the city's booming tourist trade, notably the Palm Jumeirah development.

As of April 2011, construction of phase one was 30% complete. The project has been fast tracked by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) for an opening in 2014.

The project

Dubai is part of the UAE, a grouping of seven states formed in 1971, each ruled by their own emir and with a high level of autonomy. Dubai, the largest UAE city, and neighbouring Abu Dhabi are developing the area as a regional centre with particular reference to transport, trade and tourism.

Part of the transformation of the UAE since the discovery of oil in the 1950s has been the application of fuel revenues to diversify the economy with a view to long-term prosperity and stability.

A spate of building projects triggered a workforce demand, leading to rapid population increase. Growing by 292,000 during 2006, the population reached 1.42 million by the year's end, with around 75% of residents being expatriates. Such growth in a very short time has caused extreme traffic-related problems such as long journey times, a high level of accidents and pollution.

In 2007 a government official identified congestion costs as approximating to 3.15% of the worth of the Gross Domestic Product. If vehicle growth goes unchecked, the trend will lead to over five million cars registered by 2020, their effect mainly concentrated on the urban area.

The RTA beagn to address the issue through renewal and expansion of the bus fleet, also with low-emission vehicles for taxi operations. Introducing light rail transport to Dubai, the RTA Metro system is due to begin revenue services in late 2009.

MVA consultancy and its parent, Systra, have been involved with Dubai's public transport planning since 2004, the principal rail outcome being the Metro project. The tram mode was recommended to match the district's need for closely spaced stops to service commuter and tourism demand. It also will make RTA's coverage more comprehensive for wholly public transport journeys.

First announced in April 2008, RTA signed a contract in June valued at over €550m with the ABS consortium for delivery of Al Safouh project phase one. The composition of ABS is Alstom of France (with around €300m of the total), Belgian construction company Besix and UK-based multi-sector operator Serco.

Phase one of the project involves laying a 9.5km long track from Dubai Marina to the Mall of the Emirates Station. It will have nine stops, with a standard platform length of 44m. Phase two comprises 4.5km long track with ten stations.


Al Safouh will be the world's first open tramway to have all stops aligned with platform screen doors, this allowing for full air conditioning of the system. Giving consistency with other RTA modes, including bus shelters, air conditioning adds to customer appeal in regular temperatures around 40°C. Another innovation is the use throughout of Alstom's catenary-free APS (Alimentation Par le Sol) system for electricity ground supply to trams whilst overhead.

Although APS has been in use on sections of the Bordeaux tramway since 2003 and is specified for other French cities Angers, Reims and Orléans, this is the first total system application. As with third-rail pick-up being specified for Dubai Metro, the authorities wished to avoid what is considered as visually intrusive overhead line equipment.

Mainly at surface level, there will be some elevated track near the Marina. To encourage overall public transport use, interchange with the Metro Red Line will be provided at three points.

Rolling stock

Alstom will supply 25 APS-fitted 100% low-floor Citadis 402 trams; eight will enter service as part of phase one, and the remainder as part of phase two. This seven-module 44m variant is in service with APS equipment in Bordeaux and also with overhead supply in Grenoble, Strasbourg and on Paris T3 where it is configured to carry just over 300 passengers. Capacity in each direction for the Al Safoouh project is put in excess of 5,000 passengers per hour. Each train will also have a carriage solely for women and children.

The trains will operate on power supplied by modern ground cable system.