x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai bus inspector who makes you pay for breaking the rules

Hamad Abdulla Al Jallaf, 27, who has worked for the RTA for eight years, shows us what its like keeping bus passengers in check all day.

Hamad Al Jallaf checks the Nol cards of bus passengers.
Hamad Al Jallaf checks the Nol cards of bus passengers.

DUBAI // If you are ever on a bus between December 2nd Street and Dubai Creek, keep a sharp eye out for Hamad Al Jallaf.

The RTA bus inspector patrols Bur Dubai, Al Mankhool, Al Raffa, Karama and Al Jafiliya - known as Area 4 - eight hours a day, five days a week.

Every morning he puts on his beige uniform and gets out his portable card reader that allows him to check passengers' Nol cards in seconds.

On this day, Mr Al Jallaf's reader alerts him to a breach of rules at a stop in Al Jafiliya.

After inspecting a card, he asks a Filipina passenger for her ID and tells her to leave the bus and wait for him at the stop while he finishes his inspection.

Sara Mamadra, 31, waits nervously by the bus stop shelter. The card reader showed that she had checked out 10 minutes before arriving at that stop.

When Mr Al Jallaf approaches, she pleads for clemency, insisting it was a mistake.

But there's no arguing with Mr Al Jallaf's card reader, which shows she checked in correctly and checked out five minutes later without exiting the bus.

The mistake will cost the housemaid Dh200.

"This is the first time I've been fined for anything in Dubai," Ms Mamadra says. "I didn't know, it was a mistake. I've been using the bus for six months now without any problems."

She calls her employer to come and pay her fine as she doesn't have any money on her.

As she waits, the next bus arrives and another breach is seen.

Alan Sangalang, a shop assistant at a furnishing store, had his feet resting on the glass partition.

"I know the rules, I've been using the bus for years," said the Filipino, aged 30.

"This was not intentional, my foot was just touching the glass."

Mr Al Jallaf hears his plea and decides to let him off with a warning.

But Ms Mamadra must pay the fine on the spot, or hand over her ID and pay the fine at an RTA customer service centre before collecting it from the Public Transport headquarters.

She opts to pay on the spot, and hands over a Dh10 knowledge fee.

On an average day, Mr Al Jallaf issues six or seven tickets.

"My biggest obstacle is the language," he says. "Some accents and dialects are very difficult to understand.

"Luckily I can speak Arabic, English and Hindi, but sometimes I have to rely on hand gestures and showing them the data on my card reader to get the point across."

Fines are issued for fare evasion; eating, drinking or sleeping on the bus; and having your feet on any part of the seats, railings, glass partitions or windows.

"We can also fine the bus drivers," says Mr Al Jallaf. "It has happened a few times, mostly for not wearing a seat belt."

The most common fine on the bus, he says, is travellers checking in and out incorrectly.

"People have to pay attention to the message they get on the screen when they swipe their Nol cards," he says. "Make sure it says 'in' when you want to check in and 'out' when you want to check out. Don't just go by the beep and say that's it.

"Incorrect check-in is the reason behind most of the fines we write."

Mr Al Jallaf also warns against carrying more than one Nol card in your wallet when tagging the reader.

"This may cause an incorrect reading and may even overcharge you. If you know you are carrying more than one Nol card, just take one out and use that."

Although still in his 20s, Mr Al Jallaf has already spent eight years working for the RTA.

Before he was a bus inspector he spent five years as a parking inspector. It's a job that comes with a fair amount of abuse.

"Not physically, but we get a lot of verbal abuse," he says.

He and his colleagues, he says, are prepared for the abuse during their RTA training.

"The instructors would try to stress you out and provoke you by tossing insults at you, and they don't hold back," Mr Al Jallaf says.

"Everything is fair game to them: from your family, children, parents - they insult everyone you know. I never heard anything on the job worse than what I've heard in training.

"But that is good, because then you're not fazed by what you might hear from a passenger."

malkhan@thenational.ae