ABU DHABI // Traffic flowed steadily during rush hour for the first time in a year today, merchants around the Al Salam Expressway project said, as police began a blitz to clear lorries and other heavy vehicles from Abu Dhabi's roads. At 2.30pm, the road in front of Abu Dhabi Mall in the Tourist Club district was mostly free of the construction vehicles, cement mixers and 18-wheelers typically clogging the right-hand lanes.
The Ministry of Interior today began enforcing a new rule barring vehicles exceeding 2.5 tonnes from the streets between the 6am and 8am, as well as between 1pm and 3pm. The rule also applies to a section near Al Raha Beach. "The road is empty. This is good news today," remarked Kussai al Najjad, who runs the Ettihad Antiques shop along the street. Mr al Najjad, 33 and from Syria, said he was able to drive home to Airport Road for a mid-afternoon break at 1:30pm. The trip took less than 10 minutes, he said.
"Usually, this can be 25 to 30 minutes, so I'm very surprised." Mr al Najjad's neighbours at the Mongolian Chinese Restaurant agreed that the traffic outside was far quieter than usual. "Usually this time is a very busy time," Shafeeque Kutty, the supervisor of the restaurant, said around 2pm. "We would always hear the sound of trucks braking. Now we hear almost nothing."
Mr Kutty said customers had begun complaining that the delivery service from the restaurant was too slow. He hoped the new regulations banning lorries near lunchtime would encourage more patrons to dine in at the restaurant. "We have less customers because people are too lazy to drive," he said. "We will have to refer our customers to this report and I hope they'll be happy." Police said that scoff-laws could face fines of up to Dh1,000 and also have their lorries impounded for a week. Repeat violators could receive another Dh1,000 fine and a two-week impoundment. The driver would accumulate eight points upon each violation.