'We spend hours in traffic': Some UAE residents lose 'one day a month' stuck in road jams

Emiratis and expats have welcomed the proposal of a new federal highway linking the 7 emirates to ease traffic woes


Angel Tesorero


Ruqayya Al Qaydi

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Published: Thu 25 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2024, 2:25 PM

UAE residents caught in daily traffic are estimated to lose an equivalent of one day each month. Although no concrete study supports this claim, motorists who spoke with Khaleej Times said that the total time they spend stuck in traffic accumulates to a day or two monthly. According to these residents, this lost time could have been better spent with family and friends.

Khadija Bilal, an Emirati working mother of two living in Sharjah, faces traffic woes daily while heading to her work in Dubai. She starts very early in the morning to reach her workplace on time. "The time I spend in traffic could have been spent with my children at home," said Khadija.

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Another working mother who lives near Sharjah Mosque has to leave her house before 6am to reach her workplace in Al Quoz at around 7am. She said, “Normally, the 45-km drive from home would take only about 30-35 minutes, but it will double if I leave past 7am.

“The drive back home is worse,” she added. "I have to drive for more than 1.5 hours to reach home. When calculated monthly, the additional time (1 hour) spent in traffic – from office to home – for the five-day workweek reaches more than 20 hours or almost one day a month.”

New federal highway

Addressing the Federal National Council (FNC) on Wednesday, Suhail bin Mohammed Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said they would study the proposal submitted by the parliamentary body to assess whether there is a need to construct a new highway or add more lanes to existing ones, or assess if diverting traffic to alternative routes would help reduce road congestion.

FNC member Dr Adnan Hamad Al Hammadi told the minister that federal roads linking Dubai and the Northern Emirates see severe traffic jams, especially during peak hours.

"These roads drain 20 hours per week, 80 hours per month, and 1,000 hours annually from employees who live in the Northern Emirates and work in Dubai. This (road congestion) affects their commitment and productivity at work," said Al Hammadi, urging the minister to find solutions.

The FNC member noted that although the ministry has developed many roads, nothing major has been done on federal ones. "The primary highways — Al Ittihad, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed and Emirates roads — currently have fewer than 20 lanes, with about 10 for entry into Dubai. These roads accommodate over 850,000 vehicles commuting between Dubai and the Northern Emirates," said Al Hammadi.

Welcome announcement

Emiratis and expats have welcomed the proposal and Al Hammadi's commitment to examine plans to improve road systems and traffic solutions, including studying the development of a new federal highway.

Fatima Al Shehhi, who travels daily from Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai, is hopeful about the possibility of a new highway. She believes it will reduce her travel time, giving her more time with her family.

"I hope they (the UAE federal government) make this plan happen. This new highway will help many people, especially those living in the Northern Emirates," she added, noting that she loses almost an hour daily in traffic.

Another working parent, A Sahany, who lives in Al Ghadeer - at the border between Abu Dhabi and Dubai - spends an extra 20 minutes commuting during peak hours to cover the 50km drive to her office in Dubai, a journey typically taking 40-45 minutes during non-rush hours. In a day, she loses around 40 minutes due to traffic, which is about 14 hours in a month.

More road arteries needed

British expat Mark Hamill, CEO of Arcet Global, said, "My experience driving from Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai for morning meetings on the E611 (Emirates Road) – even during peak times – is usually not a problem.

Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill

"If there is an accident, however, it can significantly add time to my journey. Particular hotspots for accidents appear to be just past Sharjah Grand Mosque."

Hamill, a UAE resident of 13 years, added, "Driving back in the evening is much more challenging, with traffic usually at a standstill from 5pm onwards. More arteries from the E611 to E311 would make a difference in easing the traffic."

Robust transport solution

Urban planner and architect Aileen Llagas, said, "The initiative by the government to address traffic congestion reflects a commendable commitment to stress their serious approach to this issue.

Aileen Llagas
Aileen Llagas

"But let's also consider the idea that road congestion is actually caused by the fact that people are becoming more reliant on private cars for transport. Without changing this mindset, we will be spending more money to constructing more lanes, roads or highways," she said.

A more robust inter-emirate public transport is what Llagas is suggesting to solve the inter-city traffic problem. "It's not that easy, however, to say 'add more public transport' because we also have to consider the accessibility to public buses – for example – during peak summer months, when people have to walk under the hot sun to reach waiting areas," she added.

"Every city will have its unique challenges and needs. There will be combinations of solutions, and the best ones will come from hearing the opinions of the people who are directly affected," Llagas concluded.


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