Public Transport often struggles to cover its operating expenses through the farebox. Only a very few very high capacity BRT schemes in South America run an operating profit. Dubai RTA however thinks it can fully cover 100% of its operating costs for its metro by 2017, it already covers 60%. How? Well by extending a scheme which has already raised over 320 million pounds – naming rights.
Imagine instead of going to Wembley Central you went to Quintain, or instead of West Croydon you went to Ikea. That is the principal, hence you have stations with names like Dubai Mall, Sharaf DG (an electronics chain), Dubai City Centre (actually the name of a mall and not Dubai City Centre – even if there was such a place), and Palm Diera, even in the last case the project after which it is named is not longer called Palm Diera buit Diera Island, that project will not have a metro, and the station in question though the nearest to that project is around 2km from it.
It is easy to be skeptical, Sharjah DG after all is not a place and there are dozens of Sharah DGs, the place that Metro serves is an area called Al Barsha, but if you looked on the metro map on how to get to Al Barsha you would get confused (as I was at first). On the whole though the scheme works because Dubai is a city of corporately branded projects. Ahmed Kanna describes it well in his book – Dubai The City As Corporation. So few people get confused by Stations called ‘Mall of the Emirates’, ‘Dubai Marina’ or ‘World Trade Centre’ because that branding is the name of the new city district that has been created. But with the announcement today that all and every station will have its naming rights sold then existing geographically specific names such as ‘Al Rigga’ and ‘Karama’ will likely go.
Such is scheme is likely to work less well in a city not comprised of mega projects – like London. But the prizes of funding your operating costs as a result means that it can’t be far away. So Piccadilly Circus could come Virgin, Oxford Circus Selfridges, Knightsbridge Harrods, Tottenham Hale, Spurs, Covent Garden Delloites, Kings Cross, Google, Whitechapel, News International and Victoria, Pimlico Plumbers. Actually would that really be so outrageous, no one would get lost would they? It would be a lot easier for tourists coming to shop. As in Dubai if certain firms want to maintain a presence on the map they will be forced to buy the naming rights.
Naming rights for all of London’s stations, over and underground, would likely raise over 15 billion pounds, and there would be global interest, it would fund a new tube line and several tram lines. Is that a price worth paying to get off at Apple station rather than Leicester Square, at Arups instead of Warren Street, At Disney instead of Hammersmith?