Dubai revellers stranded downtown


By Zoi Constantine

DUBAI // Thousands spent hours in traffic jams in Dubai early yesterday morning after the transportation system was overwhelmed by the number of New Year revellers trying to return home after ringing in 2011.

Traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road and other major roads ground to near standstills after midnight as people tried to return from events such as the Burj Khalifa New Year’s Eve Gala, the city’s main event.

Emaar estimated that half a million people converged on Downtown Dubai to watch the dazzling midnight fireworks display from the world’s tallest building.

In anticipation of the high demand for public transport throughout the night, people had been encouraged to use the Metro. Train services, along with public buses, water buses, abras and water taxi services, were extended until 3am yesterday.

However, passengers reported scenes of chaos at some Metro stops as long queues snaked through stations, with people stranded for hours waiting for space on a train.

Abdulaziz Hassan al Shamsi, 35, a father of four from Sharjah, said: “The fireworks were wonderful, but the event was spoiled by the sea of people. Getting away from Burj Khalifa was almost impossible. The Metro was full, the roads were gridlocked, and we were stuck in Downtown Dubai, like it was an island.

“In the future I would hope these problems are resolved, because it is such an important event.”

Roads were gridlocked throughout the evening – with the Defence roundabout among the worst affected areas- as revellers made their way to and from various events.

Some ended up walking along Sheikh Zayed Road as they tried to find a way home. Peter George, 45, originally from Kerala but living in Jebel Ali, attended the celebrations with his wife, Preeti. “Getting to Burj Khalifa was bad enough – the Metro was very busy at all the stations – but getting away from the Burj [was] a nightmare,” he said.

“We waited two hours to try to get a train. In the end, we walked along Sheikh Zayed Road to near Al Quoz – and finally flagged a cab. It took us about three hours to get home.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) was unavailable for comment yesterday, as was Emaar Properties, the organiser of the Burj Khalifa event. Dubai Police also did not respond to calls.

Abdul Aziz Malik, the chief executive of Dubai Taxi Corporation said his company fielded as many cars as possible. “All the companies in Dubai did their best to push their cars out,” he said, adding that delays and traffic problems are to be expected during New Year’s celebrations.

“I think this is something that always happens every year. There was a demand there, but there were taxis too. But due to the traffic jams it was difficult to reach customers.”

Dubai revellers stranded downtown