By Essam Al Ghalib

DUBAI // A luxury bus service serving the Downtown Dubai area is looking like it will become a popular ride for tourists. However, not all of the drivers are too enamoured with the route.

  Tourists enjoy the free ride on the new trolley buses serving the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall area.  Satish Kumar / The National
Tourists enjoy the free ride on the new trolley buses serving the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall area. Satish Kumar / The National

Launched two weeks ago, the service connects five destinations within the 500acre development that includes the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, but some bus drivers are struggling to navigate through tight spots designed for cars.

The shuttle service is made up of three bright red 25-seater buses. The vintage-style buses have wood trim, and removable side windows and back side-walls.

Launched on February 14, the service connects The Dubai Mall, The Address Downtown Dubai Hotel, The Palace, Souk Al Bahar, The Pavilion Downtown Dubai, and the Burj Khalifa Armani Hotel.

“We wanted to take the Big Bus tour but were told it would take three hours,” said Jane Lehman, a tourist  visiting from the UK with her husband, John. “Then we saw this bus pull up and hopped on it instead. It’s lovely and clean and the 30minute tour was exactly what we were looking for.”

A couple from Finland touring Dubai with their two children also enjoyed the ride with its open sides.

“We saw a lot,” said Minna Konu. “I am a tall woman but found the bus was comfortable and spacious. We enjoyed the wind and got some sun for 30 minutes. It’s perfect. The children loved it.”

That is exactly the reaction the Emaar Mall Group was looking for.

“The addition of the buses in Downtown Dubai will significantly enhance the ease of accessibility for tourists as well as ease the traffic during peak hours,” said Nasser Rafi, the chief executive officer of the group.

“The high-quality buses, specially designed for Downtown Dubai, highlight our commitment to offer our visitors the opportunity to experience every tourist attraction in the development at their own pace.”

But for Toshinori Sugh, 75, touring Dubai with his friend, David Tange, 88, the trip was too short and a bit confusing.

Mr Tange, an English professor who lives in Osaka, Japan, said: “We went around twice because we missed the Metro station stop. That’s why we got on the shuttle bus, because we were told that it stopped at the Metro station, but we seemed to pass it without noticing.”

On their second time round, it became clear that they had not missed the Metro station – the bus service’s planned route had.

It stopped 300 metres away, leaving the elderly pair to cross eight lanes of Emaar Boulevard traffic to reach it.

Emaar, who developed Downtown Dubai, said the buses, “will eventually be linked to the Dubai Metro”.

The driver of one of the busescomplained that the pathways in front of Dubai Mall’s main entrance were too narrow for the 9metre long and 2.5metre wide vehicles.

“It’s a real challenge to not rub the tyres against the curb,” he said. “I don’t think the Dubai Mall Drive was designed for buses.”

At the Lake View at Souk Al Bahar, the driver was pleading with valet service personnel to move a large Hummer H2 they had parked where he needed to turn. They refused, telling him it belonged to a VIP.

Since its launch on February 14, the shuttle service has been free, but from next Saturday, those wishing to use it will have to pay Dh20 for a day pass. Children under 12 years of age accompanied by an adult ride for free.

The service runs on weekdays from 10am to 10pm and on weekends from 10am to midnight.