2 billion Dubai Metro riders: Residents recall their first trip on driverless system

Many of them watched the once-in-a-lifetime launch live on their TV screens, itching to be one of the first to travel on the stunning network


Waheed Abbas

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File photo
File photo

Published: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 3:31 PM

Last updated: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 10:56 PM

Some events are etched in our lives and they become life-long memories. The launch of the Dubai Metro on September 9, 2009 was one of these once-in-a-lifetime events for residents. Many of them watched it live on their screens while itching to be one of the first to travel on the driverless metro. Interestingly, some of them even share their birthdays with the metro.

The Metro reached its first milestone of one billion riders eight years after its launch, while the second billion was achieved faster, in just six years. If compared, the metro carried people close to the combined population of the USA, India and Pakistan.

Neeil Bhatia, a long-time Dubai resident, proudly shares his birthday with the Dubai Metro. “I can never forget Dubai Metro’s birthday as I share the same birth date, except that I’m older,” says Bhatia.

Pictured: Neeil Bhatia with family
Pictured: Neeil Bhatia with family

“I remember about four years before it was launched, proposed images of what the metro would look like in Dubai were unimaginable. The images looked like some science fiction film poster, and today, Dubai Metro truly looks attractive when you see it ride through the Dubai skyline and [the] beautiful Museum of the Future,” he said.

In addition, he said that Dubai Metro’s excellent connectivity, convenience, service and maintenance are the absolute best, which helps the metro look brand new every year.

Ola Osama Wahdan, a student at the American University of Sharjah, was only seven years old when the metro was launched.

Pictured: Ola Osama Wahdan
Pictured: Ola Osama Wahdan

“I remember being excited to finally experience it. The first time I rode the metro was a truly surreal experience! My family and I discovered the convenience of having a metro to transport,” she said.

Child-like excitement

Hetal Popat was among the first people to travel on the metro after its launch.

“I had come to Dubai in October 2007, and it seemed like the City of Dreams with skyscrapers and shopping malls. I believed I had seen it all. However, rumours began to circulate that a driverless metro system would soon traverse the city. I remember the magical date of September 9, 2009,” said Popat.

Pictured: Hetal Popat
Pictured: Hetal Popat

“Watching the live telecast of the first driverless metro ride with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was nothing short of momentous. I hopped onto the metro a few days later and felt child-like excitement. Standing in the front cabin and getting a bird's eye view of the Sheikh Zayed Road is something I will never forget. Every time [we] see those blue carriages pass overhead, we feel a sense of pride and nostalgia,” he said.

Pradyuth Ramkishore says as an 11-year-old at the time, he vividly remembers the excitement to ride the metro with his family in 2009.

Pictured: Pradyuth Ramkishore
Pictured: Pradyuth Ramkishore

“It was my first time using such a mode of transportation, and the red coloured ticket they issued, and the fact that it had no driver, left me astounded. I still recall telling my father that it looked like it was taken out of a sci-fi movie. Over a decade later, I use it every day to commute to work and visit places in Dubai.

The tremendous improvement in the accessibility of the metro network and its facilities has made it very convenient to move in and around the city,” said the young Dubai resident.


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