The Salik road toll system is to be expanded to all major roads and bridges in Dubai in a major push to get people to use public transport, Emirates Business 24|7 has learned.
Electronic gates will be installed on Emirates Road, Al Khail Road and Al Ittihad Road by 2009. Salik will also be introduced at Shindagha Tunnel, Business Bay Crossing and Maktoum bridge in the same year.
By 2010, tollgates will be installed on the new crossings planned for the Creek, plus the yet-to-be-built Shindagha bridge and the fifth bridge.
In total, the plan will see a total of 10 tollgates by 2010, including the existing gates over Sheikh Zayed Road and Garhoud bridge that became operational this year.
“The move is designed to create a seamless flow of traffic and to encourage people to use public transport means,” said a senior RTA official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
However, he could not reveal the precise locations of the new Salik gates, saying it is still under study. He said the study would also recommend pricing for each toll, which would be based on traffic demands on particular routes. Currently, there is a flat Dh4 fee for passing under a toll – with revenues expected to reach Dh600 million during the first year.
The decision to install extra gates was based on the success of the current tollgates in alleviating traffic congestion and also on the similar traffic management systems in other major cities around the world, he said.
New tollgates are likely to affect motorists who drive between Dubai and Sharjah, since all the gateways between the two emirates will be toll-controlled. However, residents in both emirates are already concerned the new tollgates, in the absence of a comprehensive public transport network, would dig deeply into their incomes.
Nigel Harvey, Chairman of the South African Business Council, welcomed the expansion plan as a better way to ease traffic but warned it might add to the skyrocketing costs of living.
“More tollgates are welcome for as long as they will help to ease the current traffic woes. However, since some are still complaining about the current tollgates, adding more will aggravate their financial problems,” said Harvey.
Real estate broker Rizwan Ahmed, 34, whose work involves driving to meet clients, said he could not imagine how he will afford the extra cost for almost every route he travels in Dubai. Yasir Hawas, director of the Roadway, Transportation and Traffic Safety Research Centre at UAE University, said tollgates are the best way to manage traffic but urged authorities to first put in place a comprehensive public transport network.
“International research is in favour of tollgates as the best way to deal with traffic problems but they can only work effectively with an existing full public transport setup,” said Hawas.
RTA is spending up to Dh80 billion by 2020 to improve public transport and the road infrastructure in Dubai. Each year, the UAE loses Dh4bn due to traffic jams and an additional Dh400m from accidents.
Martin George, Chief Executive of Media Point in Dubai, said he would not mind paying at new salik gates – as long as there was a guaranteed free flow of traffic. “Every meeting missed due to traffic delays means loss of money. I would not hesitate to use any method of beating the traffic jam to make business for my company,” he said.
He said more gates would impact low-income earners if no proper transport infrastructure was in place. Adam Kechil, a certified road safety consultant in Dubai, said more tollgates was the best way to cut unnecessary trips because it makes it expensive to drive and thus leaving the roads for those who find it necessary to drive.
10 - The total number of Salik toll gates to be installed around Dubai by 2010
Dh600 - The estimated annual income in millions from the current two gates
Dh80 - The amount in billions the RTA will spend by 2020 on public transport
Salik to be rolled out across Dubai