Blog launched 27th May 2016

To start off the new Blog on this website I thought that I’d write about my recent stopover in Dubai to attend the UITP MENA Transport Exhibition visit. With a bit also about my impressions on arriving in Jakarta, where I’ve been working on a project to transform bus operations in this major capital city.

This was my first visit to the United Arab Emirates and what impressed me most was the sheer scale of the International Airport and the size of Dubai city. The 47-mile long Dubai Metro, which serves the Airport, is both fully-automated – the longest such in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records - and feels very fast. There is an underground section in the city centre but extensive elevated sections elsewhere. I had researched beforehand the idea of buying a Nol travel card on my arrival but was surprised to be offered the choice of first class or ordinary travel when I bought it. I opted to pay the small premium for first-class travel and was glad I did as that got me forward-facing and rearward facing seats rather than side ones.

Driverless minibus on display and test running outside UITP’s MENA Transport event in Dubai at the end of April

Driverless minibus on display and test running outside UITP’s MENA Transport event in Dubai at the end of April

Both Dubai's metro and the light rail have explanatory booklets, with both Arabic and English-language versions widely available. The massive World Trade Centre, where the UITP event was being held, has its own metro station and outside the UITP's exhibition hall was a driverless minibus running demonstration rides. Dubai's determination to be a world leader in the deployment of driverless vehicles was being widely reported in the local press, with the launch of the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy.

The show was notable for the presence of a large number of companies providing support services or technology for school transport - big business in the UAE - and large and impressive stands from both Iranian transport organisations and Dubai's RTA, as well as many Turkish and Chinese vehicle manufacturers. There were several European manufacturers displaying, including the UK's Wrightbus.

After my stopover in Dubai it was great to land in Jakarta after nearly a year's absence, and to see the developments that are taking place there. But what struck me most forcibly on my taxi drive into the city was the large increase in the number of motorbike-taxis. The huge numbers of semi-anonymous ojeks (with no uniforms and often no helmets) have been supplemented greatly by branded app-driven services  - Go-Jek (which existed on my last visit but has been significantly expanded since), Singapore-based Grab and, of course, Uber. All three also have car-taxi services as well, but these are less visible, and are also embracing other types of transport offerings, such as van hire. Jakarta citizens are enthusiastically embracing apps, so it will be interesting to see what the future holds for shared-transport services such as these.

For a good article on the growth of Go-Jek see the BBC website at

John Austin May 2016

John Austin is speaking at the iModal Conference in Nottingham on 21st June, on the topic of ˜Mobility as a Service and the integration of taxis into passenger transport networks™. Book your tickets at