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Salik gates take a toll on motorists

Sarah Young / 16 April 2013

Monday morning turned out ‘okay’ for many drivers who took the Sharjah-Dubai Al Ittihad road, which normally crawls at 7.30am in the rush to get to schools and offices.

Civil engineer Mushtaq Sayeed, who opted for his regular route said he was happy at the road not taken (Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road). “It was okay on Al Ittihad road today,” the 34-year old said, and added the extra Dh4 he shelled out at the new Al Mamzar Salik tollgate helped ease his commuting woes and saved him the stress of travel.

The Road and Transport Authority (RTA) introduced Salik charges at two key locations — Al Ittihad road and Airport Tunnel — on Monday.

There was a drop in traffic at different hours, according to many drivers but the numbers could not be verified on the day the two gates were opened. The RTA expects thousands of motorists to opt for other roads with the opening of Al Mamzar and Airport Tunnel tollgates.

Others like Binu Shekhar left home early for Jebel Ali and avoided the tolls. It didn’t help. Ghusais was choked with vehicles in the morning and late into the afternoon.

It was a sea of traffic in the area and drivers like Shekhar said it took him an hour to exit from the area. “I knew public schools had reopened and more buses and cars would be out. I hoped to skip the tolls and started early but it didn’t help,” he said.

Smaller roads in Sharjah bore the brunt of the rush hour traffic. Long lines of vehicles could be seen stretching kilometres as early as 6.30am. “It was such a long journey, everyone seemed to be heading our way,” said Asif Imran, a resident of Al Nahda, who stuck to Mohammed Bin Zayed Road to avoid paying the new toll.

Reactions to the opening of two new toll gates was mixed, with many remaining suspicious as to whether the tolls will clear congestion on the roads.

The RTA had another supporter online this morning, with Mohammed Amin Nassif tweeting to praise the move: “Hats off @RTA_Dubai for the new Salik, this is the first time from 6 years I went through Al Ittihad Road in morning time.”

Other residents travelling on Al Ittihad Road shared the sentiment. “It was easy to drive on the road this morning. I don’t remember driving without running into bumper-to-bumper traffic here on working days,” said Mohammed Hafiz, a Pakistani engineer. The money spent is worth it, he said.

However, many of the Twitter population, who were concerned enough to comment, were not so kind — remaining suspicious about the benefit to be gained and the cost to be paid.

Rohit Gupta described the ensuing traffic as “a horror!”, while Rinay Rai tweeted “2 many toll gates...? It’s just another hole in our pocket! Even taxis r charging these day” —  a sentiment echoed by Altamash Javed who commented: “It’s hilarious when the RTA_Dubai say the toll gate is helping congestion....”

The RTA installed the gates to ease traffic on the Sharjah-Dubai highway, where the usual 30 minute journey to Sharjah can turn into several hours during peak time.

Nabaa Al Dabbagh tweeted: “Salik toll gates activated today.. Hello crazy traffic”, and commented again later saying traffic was far worse, at all points, on Shaikh Zayed Road.

Ginelle tweeted: “As I was heading to work I noticed traffic from Sharjah to Dubai hasn’t reduced in spite of the new Salik Toll Gate on Ittihad Road!”, and others such as Leisure Al A Mode,   gave those responsible a direct message: “Introducing Salik toll gate is not a solution to traffic problem RTA DUBAI”, a sentiment echoed by Al Mamzar: “The new Salik Toll Gate just made it even worse, just more money out of our pockets! @RTA_Dubai”.

This brings the total number of Salik tollgates in Dubai to six, with two others on Shaikh Zayed — in Al Barsha and Al Safa, and another two on Al Maktoum Bridge and Al Garhoud Bridge.

The RTA says “exhaustive traffic and field studies of the first and second phases” have apparently proven that these existing Salik gates have succeeded in slashing the trip time on Shaikh Zayed Road by as much as 44 per cent.


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