Thursday, December 15, 2005

Trapped in Jebel Ali

Once upon a time (about four years ago), we lived in a remote outpost of Dubai called Jebel Ali. I worked at Media City. It was a ten-minute drive from home to work, and about twenty minutes to Dubai itself. I thought 'how lucky I am to have escaped all the congestion'. Then they decided to construct homes and offices for about a million people in my neighbourhood.

But, amazingly, they forgot about transportation infrastructure. When the Jumeirah Palm was being built we had endless streams of trucks full of sand or carrying big chunks of Hajar mountains to dump into the sea. Our only artery for getting anywhere, the beloved Sheikh Zayed Road, became more and more clogged with heavy traffic. The pathetic 'interchanges' number five (for Media City) and six (for Jebel Ali Village), simply could not cope with the pressure.

They built an interchange between 5 and 6 to service Ibn Battuta Mall, and this also improved access to The Gardens. They are almost done with building two new interchanges to service Jumeirah Palm and Internet and Media Cities. This has brought more than the usual chaos on Sheikh Zayed Road and also on Al Sufouh (Beach) Road, where these interchanges connect to the Palm itself.

And, the crowning glory of this strategy, about two months ago they closed junction five because that's going to be turned into a lovely cloverleaf interchange. Marvellous. The temporary access roads they have built are hopelessly inadequate for the job. It is no longer possible during daylight hours for me to get from the Gardens to my office in anything less than forty minutes.

The last two times I have ventured out for an evening's entertainment in Dubai have involved being stuck in traffic on SZR or Beach Road for well over an hour.

Developers keep banging on about 'master-planned this' and 'master-planned that'. The problem with these master plans is that they stop at the gates of the development. They are not joined-up. So poor old Dubai Municipality, over-stretched, under-funded and under-staffed has to try to build the infrastructure to make it all work. Not an easy task when you don't know from one minute to the next what the developers are planning!