An additional Dh500 in monthly expenses is what Harsha S is anticipating come April 15, when two new Salik tollgates pepper Dubai’s landscape, while deducting Dh4 across daily commutes with each passing.
Harsha, who is a senior sales manager with an FMCG firm in Dubai, also questioned the need for an HR policy that now brings Salik into the growing list of allowances offered in a monthly paycheque in lieu of the rising cost of living.
He isn’t alone in this conundrum.
As the Roads and Transports Authority of Dubai announced the installation of two new tollgates over the weekend – before and after Al Mamzar Bridge and at the entry and exit points of the Airport Tunnel – several commuters are fretting over the rising costs, with requests of an HR policy change to offset the expenses.
Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Harsha explained his predicament, saying: “I live on one side of the Airport Tunnel and work on the other side. Being in sales to boot, I have to cross the stretch 50 times a week. Do you have any idea what kind of expenses I will now be incurring?
“The old Emirates Road is already choked with daily commuters, so even that isn’t an option for me as an alternative, considering I’ll have to leave home by 5.30am to reach work at 7am at this rate.”
Quiz him if his company offers him a Salik allowance, and he denies it.
“Ideally, people in positions as myself who are constantly on the move should be entitled to a Salik allowance, but that would require an HR policy overhaul across the board, which is hardly a priority,” he added.
For Stewart K, who works in an events company and is “constantly on the move”, says the time has come to make a Salik allowance request as part of the overall allowance package when negotiating a new job.
“If you can expect housing and car allowances, then surely with the rising cost of living, some precedent needs to be set to take the burden off the daily commuter,” he said.
“Companies adopting stringent budget policies may want to reconsider a blanket Salik allowance and limit it to just its sales team and top management. I think that is imperative now to limit employee turnover.”
PA, an HR manager with a large Dubai-based corporation, which offers a toll allowance to its employees, said that the company adopted the policy as perk for its staff.
“When we first introduced a Salik allowance several years ago, we conducted a feasibility study, calculating the average weekly toll charges of a certain section of employees whose job description forced them to work offsite on a regular basis.”
He continued: “We calculated the expense at Dh160 an average employee would spend on Salik in line of work and that is what we reimburse them with monthly.
“We are actually one of the handful of companies in Dubai that do offer such an allowance as there is no precedent for it in the labour contract.”
Anita Mohan, an HR executive with a Dubai-based hardware firm, said: “Ever since news broke of the two new tollgates, we have seen a steady stream of employees moaning about the cost involved. A few have already joked about a Salik fund that could be collected every month.
“I would be surprised if formal requests for a revision of the monthly allowance don’t come in soon. New recruiters will definitely have another item to negotiate in future.”
In a statement earlier, Mattar Al Tayer, RTA’s Chairman of the Board and Executive Director, said the new Salik gates will help divert traffic towards unutilised roads where the RTA has made massive investments.
In addition, it will also lead to more people using the public transport system, particularly the Metro and buses, which will help ease congestion on Dubai roads.
“About 1,500 vehicles are expected to be diverted from Al Ittihad and Beirut Roads to the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road and the Bypass Road. People will be more encouraged to use public transport means and accordingly contribute to realising RTA’s strategic objective of raising the number of trips made by public transport means to 20 per cent by 2020,” Al Tayer said in a statement.
The RTA chief added: “Al Ittihad Road is considered one of the busiest roads in Dubai, where the trip time indicator is (9.98 minutes) for travelling north during the evening peak time from the intersection of Al Ittihad Road with the Airport Road up to the intersection with Baghdad Road; which means that the trip time during the evening peak time is 10 times the trip time during the free flow period (midnight).”
According to the RTA, about 260,000 vehicles using Al Ittihad Road every day, and as the total number of vehicle trips in the emirate is estimated in the order of three million trips per day, it follows that nine per cent of vehicles use this artery.
Meanwhile, Al Tayer added: “The traffic studies concluded that the installation of a toll gate system on Al Ittihad Road without installing the system on the Airport Tunnel will result in massive traffic congestions…
“Since there is no way to widen the Tunnel from an engineering perspective, the only solution is to introduce Salik to divert a portion of traffic to alternative roads such as the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, and the Dubai Bypass Road.”