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Transportation Development in the UAE since 1970
Thirty years ago the UAE was one of the least developed countries in the world. However, the income level it has achieved recently is comparable to that of the industrialized nations. The hypothetical development stages that most developing countries pass through were never experienced by the UAE. Its large oil revenues have allowed her to leap these stages to high mass consumption. The UAE have enabled to short cut the usually lengthy and difficult processes of capital accumulation and saving mainly due to its massive oil revenues necessary for economic development. The UAE has given its natural resource endowments abundance from its industries that are more (RBI) resource based in nature for its gas and oil use. This implementation as a strategy for development is based on natural resources utilization.
There has been a largely directed deployment since 1973 of windfall income at instant economic and social development that has helped to boost the infrastructure to the current level. The UAEs modern internal transport system in an overview was primarily developed in the 1960s and 1970s with emphasis being laid on connecting the major cities through construction of the main roads. Because of the UAEs strategic location Maritime trade has become a mainstay of the economy on the Dubais ports and Persian Gulf, at Mina Jabal Ali and Mina Rashid, which are not only considered the UAEs premier maritime facilities, but also the largest man-made port in the world. In urban areas, the road network is well advanced and in Dubai City there is a light rail system under construction. There are six international airports in the UAE, Dubai and the Emirates of Abu Dhabi in airport infrastructure are both making major investments, which over the next 10 years have exponentially increased the passengers traffic (Hvidt, 2013).
Dubai had very few roads and cars prior to the 1970s. Driving a car on Dubais roads was in fact a hazardous undertaking due to the free wondering camels, leading to the unwary getting involved in fatal sometimes-nasty crashes. Vehicles could travel between Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai in 1971 along a modern single tarmac road carriageway paid for by Saudi Arabia. However it was an entirely different proposition if you were travelling to Abu Dhabi.
There were only four-wheel drives and no roads, taxis and trucks used along the beach lines sand tracks as a means of traveling between the cities. Taxi drivers who were familiar with these sand tracks mostly relied on by the individual travelers. Moreover, there was no help to pull out the vehicles in case they became lost or bogged with the sand. Land rovers nicknamed ships of the desert were the vehicle of choice in what was the beginning of modern development of the emirates transport infrastructure and trade systems (Little, 2007).
As compared to other emirates Dubai enjoyed lower customs, this allowed the traders to smuggle goods without headlights over night to avoid raising alarm. Some opportunists in the late 60s/early 70s in order to facilitate transportation opted to borrow from the Dubai Defense Force Land rovers owned by H.H Sheikh Rashids mainly during some of his trips oversees. After H.H Sheikh Rashid learned what had happened they were eventually returned.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai road construction has ended the difficult land crossings with the main construction being completed in 1973 to connect with Abu Dhabi. Both parts of their roads borders were constructed by both the emirates mainly a two lane highway with no lighting. Within the UAE transport has become almost entirely road-based. Since the 1970s the development of roads network, particularly in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi has significantly improved, and its growth has been rapid. The UAE has 253 kilometers of expressways that has paved roadways that are estimated to be 1,088 kilometers (Badran et al., 2003).
The UAE government statistics has shown that currently the country is serving 15 commercial ports. It includes the oil terminals located in the city of Mina Rashid and Dubai, with a total capacity of more than 70 million tons. In the Gulf region the leading port was completed in 1972. It has modern facilities to handle almost all types of passengers and commercial shipping, including handling of the containers. Completed in 1979 and located in Mina Jabal Ali in Dubai, it is not only the largest port in the country, but also the largest man-made harbor in the world. It primarily deals with industrial material and in bulk cargo for the Mina Jabal Ali Free Zone (Owen, 2008).
Redistribution of goods by road from Dubai took off following the Free Zone and Jebel Ali port, Pan Gulf opening. Thus for the future of the regional logistics industry the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway became vital. It was widened to four lanes on each side by the mid-1990s, roundabouts and resurfaced were replaced or removed by flyovers. In the late 1990s Abu Dhabi could be reached in less than two hours from Dubai. The UAE is currently connected through its amazing road networks that not only link the regions but also directly connect each emirate. The movement of goods and cargoes are facilitated by regional interconnection and through this the UAEs position is enhanced as a trade gateway for the Gulf region (Clark, 1984).
Nowadays, road upgrades cost the UAE millions of dollars to keep up with remedy and growth hazardous black spots. It is not until the mid-1990s when there was not any activity in the rail transport. A German delegation led by the transport minister at this time, looking for future opportunities for their own railway industry visited the UAE. A proposal arose from that visit to link Dubai and Fujairah by building a rail system, primarily for the transportation of containers from Fujairah Port to an inland container terminal. This however has caused the Free Zone Corporation and Dubais Ports customs to commission a feasibility study on rail links to regional areas (Walters, Kadragic & Walters, 2006).
There is an impressive passenger rail network system established today in the UAE that has a planned industrial network. Introduction of the Metro in 2009 has alleviated Dubai roads pressure with over 6 million commuters using the green and red lines and the GCC rail network future development will herald a new regional trade era. The UAE in a short period has achieved what many countries are still trying to get. It can be justifiable that a nation that is 40 year old is proud of its accomplishments in air, water and road transport.
With great strides in going from sand dunes and deserts to an infrastructure consisting of ports, roads and airports the UAE transport has been highly improved to be at par with the developments. In the UAE, about 4,030 km of paved highway has been constructed in the end of 2003. The key coastal cities running from the northwestern and border sham, where the Qatar roads meet with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are linked with one principle road. In the development of sustainable transportation policies in UAE, there has been a continuous growing effort. The metro project in Dubai is just one example, which can help to ease and improve the UAE transportation system.
The governments of the UAE must address the challenges of transportation, each in its own way to strengthen the economy as a whole.
The UAE government should pursue strategies to build a national transport system that is modernized and supports the vast development sector in the country.
The government should also collaborate with local universities, private investors and other professional associations to create cluster-specific transport systems that respond to the needs of the country.