MENA CONGRESS SPEAKERS SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS: CHRISTOPHER FREE, UBER

UITP has officially concluded our MENA Transport Congress & Exhibition (23-25 April) in Dubai and this year’s edition has been a great success.
Our panel and plenary sessions were very well received, therefore we have decided to sit down with a select few of our speakers and participants in order for them to share their thoughts, feedback and vision for the future of public transport in the MENA region.

Up first is Christopher Free, Strategy Lead for Europe, Middle East and Africa, at Uber!
 

You participated in the Plenary Session: 'Public Transport Into The Future' on the final day of our MENA Congress. Our Secretary General Mohamed Mezghani chaired the session and it was very well received in the room and on our social media channels. How was the session for you?

It was a fantastic session and a real opportunity to discuss what the future of public transport might look like with companies that are leading the change such as Hyperloop and Volocoptor. The questions asked allowed us to get into what will drive customer choice and also how we can best work alongside cities and regulators to help them make the right planning and investment decisions for the future.
 

You have thousands of driver in the MENA region – a part of the world that is in many ways leading the public transport sector – what does the future for Uber look like there?

MENA remains a key investment region for Uber. We see strong growth of riders, drivers and trips across the region, and we are continuing to invest heavily in this region. We believe that the potential across the MENA & Pakistan region is huge, and hence consider  them as highest priority growth region. In this region, each country has its own characteristics. In the  UAE for example, Uber is committed to supporting Dubai develop an integrated transport system and achieving its goal of being a global leader in innovation, through its technology. Egypt has become one of our fastest growing regions globally, and in Saudi Arabia we have seen one of the most progressive ridesharing regulations passed.

For us going forward, we have very much moved from a discussion of ‘whether’ to ‘how’ to integrate Uber into cities and public transport. This is especially important in the MENA region where significant investments in public transport infrastructure are being made.  In this regard, Uber wants to partner with cities to find the best possible way to let its citizens benefit from safe, affordable and reliable options such as Uber in combination with public transport.

If we are serious about ending private car dominance, we all have to work together

Your panel session discussed, among other subjects, mobility, autonomous vehicles and how Dubai may look in the next few decades. What is your take on the direction of public transport in the UAE? 

Uber is an integral part of Dubai’s infrastructure and we have been in positive conversations with the RTA on how we can continue to work towards an integrated and sustainable transport solution for the city. We remain committed to developing an integrated transport system and achieving Dubai’s goal of being a global leader in innovation, through its technology.

In 2017, we launched a pilot of UberX with an aim to provide affordable transport options to riders in Dubai, and to complement first and last mile. Pilot results confirm viability of economy solution in addressing congestion and expanding the use of public transport where we have seen significant portion of rides began or ended at a metro station or transport desert.

We’re also excited to partner with Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) to bring electric vehicles (EVs) to bring many benefits to drivers, riders and cities. Uber sees strong potential for new vehicle technologies, such as those in electric and plug-in hybrid cars, to deliver driver partners and riders with high efficiency, high quality mobility. This initiative is a collaboration / joint initiative between Uber and DTC and is well-aligned with Dubai’s 2020 vision of becoming the world’s smartest city and ushering in the Green Economy for Sustainable Development initiative.

How important are events such as our MENA Congress & Exhibition in bringing together the voices and opinion of our sectoral colleagues?

Extremely important. Events such as the MENA congress are vital as they bring in key transportation stakeholders from multiple regions which makes this a great platform  to discuss current and future partnerships with Cities. At Uber, we want to be a better partner for cities we operate in - and that also means being a trustworthy partner for public transport. If we are serious about ending private car dominance, we all have to work together: public transport, ridesharing, bikesharing, carsharing. That is why such open and inspiring discussions with cross sectoral colleagues are so important!
 

And finally, how would you sum up the Congress in one sentence!

A fantastic opportunity to meet with key decision makers across the region and discuss our vision for the future of urban mobility.

Look back at our wrap-up press release and web news on the successful MENA Transport Congress and Exhibition 2018!