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Why the Dubai Metro will be a wonder at World Expo 2020

How does a city of only 3 million people prepare for 25 million visitors?

That’s the larger than life challenge facing the futuristic city of Dubai as it prepares to host World Expo 2020.

The answer, in part, is Dubai’s comfortable, efficient, fully automated metro system, one reason why Dubai can rightly claim to be one of the ‘smartest’ cities in the world.

In fact, the metro system itself gives meaning to Dubai’s chosen World Expo theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future: Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity.’
When it opened in 2009, Dubai’s metro topped the list as the world’s longest automated rail system. Today, although in third place for coverage, its reputation as a sleek, reliable and highly modern public transit system remains clear.

With a total length of 75km, Dubai’s Red and Green Lines have served more than one billion riders. The metro is well known for high levels of safety, solid in-train and station-wide connectivity, and for its trains that run like clockwork, arriving on time over 99% of the time.  Thales’ communications-based train control solution, SelTracTM CBTC, is among the technologies driving the success of the metro.

In early 2017, Thales was selected to prepare the system for the Expo crowds, which will see a huge number of foreign visitors use its public transport network. This will involve upgrading the existing line and designing and building the extension of the Red Line, one of the longest driverless metro lines in the world. The contract includes the latest signalling, security, passenger communications, and fare collection technologies for the 15 km extension with 7 stations.

The Dubai authorities came to us and said, ‘what can you do to help improve our system? What have you learned over the years?’ They want even greater punctuality and efficiency. To that end, we are developing several new features to improve day-to-day operations and maintenance. We are also providing better energy management support and even greater redundancy to improve our system reliability.

David Dimmer, Director, Product Strategy at Thales

Thanks to its performance as the first builder and supplier, Thales will provide a state-of-the-art driverless train signalling technology as well as integrated supervision, telecommunications, passengers’ services, security and fare collection systems. These innovative solutions are designed to optimise energy consumption, smooth passenger flows and improve IT connectivity.

The main challenge? It’s to complete the project without disruption to the metro’s 20-hour-a-day operation on the existing line. Fortunately, Thales’ experience on similarly complex upgrade/expansion projects in New York, London, Paris, Singapore, and Vancouver has prepared the team to meet this challenge head-on.


Find out more about what’s driving driverless trains and discover thirty years and counting: Vancouver’s Driverless Transit Revolution