Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 marked yet another milestone in ’s spectacular progress. That was the day that HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of , inaugurated the Metro - the world’s longest automated driverless train system – before travelling on the Red Line himself.
The celebratory atmosphere throughout the emirate could be felt for days afterwards as locals and expatriates alike queued to experience the Metro first hand, and they invariably reached their destinations feeling positive and excited.
This was Sheikh Mohammed’s dream, his vision, which he held to unwaveringly in the face of sceptics who said the project wasn’t financially feasible. As always, he put quality of life before immediate fiscal revenues. With a certainty born of experience, he forged ahead in the knowledge that making life better for people attracts enterprise, investment and tourism, which together infuse the overall economy with new energy.
On the footpath of his father, the late Ruler of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, HH Sheikh Mohammed is a maestro at anticipating trends. Many of us still remember the general disbelief when Sheikh Rashid commenced building Dry-docks at a time when most visiting vessels were dhows.
Some were even more incredulous when he commissioned the World Trade Centre which was the tallest building in the UAE. The sceptics believed it would remain a ghostly white elephant. “Major corporations are not going to relocate to a desert,” they said. But Sheikh Rashid was right and they were wrong.
This ‘can do’ spirit is the foundation on which was built and on which it still rests. The philosophy of ’s rulers has always twinned ‘nothing is impossible’ with ‘nothing but the best’.
The metro is not only a regional first, the initial phase comprising 10 stations has been completed in the record time of just four years, while the Union Square station, spanning 25,000 metres, is the planet’s largest.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I have no doubt that anyone who has seen it will agree that our new metro is also the world’s most visually appealing - not to mention one of the most scenic, with its birds’ eye views of the city.
Besides being something of which we can truly be proud, the Metro will bring tangible benefits to all who live and work here by slashing commuter times, freeing the roads from congestion, reducing pollution and providing the lower-paid with freedom of movement during leisure hours.
It was constructed as part of an integrated transportation system encompassing flyovers, highways, seaports, airports, inter-Emirates buses, metro-feeder buses, parking facilities, taxis and water-taxis. With the opening of the new rail system, there is no country on earth that can compete with the diversity and capacity of ’s transportation infrastructure.
The successful unveiling of Metro at a time of global financial downturn also sends a powerful message to the rest of the world: is strong, confident and poised to expand even further. While some nations have chosen to pare-down or postpone their infrastructure projects as part of their recovery strategies, we have chosen to invest in tomorrow.
In 2012, the Metro’s Purple Line is scheduled to be operational. This will link International Airport with Al Maktoum International Airport, the first phase of which is set for completion next year.
Projected to be fully built and operational by 2017, it will be the biggest airport in the world and will break records as the most expensive project ever. It’s hard to imagine, but it will be 10 times larger than International Airport with six runways, three passenger terminals, and 16 cargo terminals, along with hotels and shopping malls.
As a testimony to ’s great achievements, it ranked the first city in the Middle East and Africa in terms of quality of living in the highly recognised Mercer’s 2009 Quality of Living Survey. Moreover, and not surprisingly, it came first in the Mercer’s infrastructure survey as well.
doesn’t do anything by halves, which is probably why it attracts so much envy. We make no apologies for excellence or for our desire to do things better than everyone else. Elements in the Western press may sneer at our achievements but if they think that we will opt for a low profile to avoid being a target, they should think again.
We’re confident because we know our strengths. is business-orientated, open, secure, dynamic and offers a safe haven for investment. And its strategic location means it will always be a trading hub linking Asia to the West.
I cannot thank HH Sheikh Mohammed enough for making us proud that our city – nay, our Metropolis - stands as a beacon lighting a path to the . Just when I think that can’t possibly get any better, it always does.
Parallel with , the capital is also upgrading its transportation infrastructure. Earlier this year, Abu Dhabi International Airport opened a luxurious new terminal with another set to be completed by 2012 that will have a passenger capacity of more than 20 million. Abu Dhabi also has a surface transport master plan in place that includes a metro, a high speed passenger and freight railway, new highways and buses.
Together, HH Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi and HH Sheikh Mohammed, make an unstoppable partnership working in harmony for the welfare of their people and to ensure this great country attains its highest potential.