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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Gulf drivers rack up millions of dirhams in unpaid fines, London authority reveals

But French drivers worst for non-payment of tickets

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Ferraris are pictured behind a blue Dubai-registered Pagani Huayra on July 23, 2015 in London, England. London has become known in recent years for a proliferation of foreign cars worth hundreds of thousands of pounds with tourists and car spotters stopping to admire the vehicles. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Ferraris are pictured behind a blue Dubai-registered Pagani Huayra on July 23, 2015 in London, England. London has become known in recent years for a proliferation of foreign cars worth hundreds of thousands of pounds with tourists and car spotters stopping to admire the vehicles. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Motorists from the UAE have racked up the third highest parking fines in the central London district of Westminster, according to figures released Wednesday by the council. Cars with UAE number plates totted up £116,030 (Dh572,835) in fines, behind Qatar (£191,105) and France (£356,000).

Saudi Arabia was eighth in the list with a total of £64,065 and Kuwait came next on £55,530. All the other nations in the top ten were European, in the chart which covered the period between April 2016 and March 2017. Three is highest number of Middle Eastern countries that have ever been in the list.

France looks set to top the list for this year as cars from the country have already notched up £111,570 in Westminster already this year in just six months. In previous years, some individual cars have garnered thousands of pounds of fines - one Russian had £10,000 in charges after parking in the same spot for weeks on end.

Cllr Danny Chalkley, Cabinet Member for City Highways, said: “We gladly welcome visitors from abroad who wish to visit our iconic roads and landmarks.

“However, drivers who park irresponsibly are a nuisance for our residents and visitors alike. This should be a reminder that a foreign number plate does not give you immunity from the law. We are committed to ensuring those who break the rules are forced to pay up.”

The borough covers areas such as Knightsbridge and Mayfair, where many visitor from Gulf states who come to the British capital during the summer months spend their time. There is usually a raft of reports in the local press about the issues relating to fast cars being raced around the area or vehicles with incredibly noisy engines.

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The UAE’s ambassador to Britain, Sulaiman Al Mazroui, told The National in August that he was keen to try to curb the phenomenon of street racing. Visitors from the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia ship expensive cars in to the country with them when they come over to London, which can often be seen on the roads around Knightsbridge.

“I wouldn't say a lot of UAE nationals are doing that – maybe one or two irresponsible kids are behaving in such a manner,” he said.

“We're a lot less than the rest of the Gulf countries. We advise our citizens to adhere to responsible behaviour when they travel abroad.

“They feel comfortable here; it's welcoming. Sometimes you get the odd misbehaviour; we tend to take action when we know about it. The authorities back home have always been quite decisive when it comes to bad behaviour abroad. It tarnishes the image when it happens.”

As The National reported earlier this year, central London councils are cracking down on antisocial behaviour of their streets. Kensington and Chelsea Council, which shares a border with Westminster, has been using new powers in the fight against selfish and dangerous drivers.

Councils across Britain were granted the right earlier this year to use Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) to issue fines against a range of driving behaviours, including revving engines, and repeated sudden acceleration or racing. Last year inspectors issued 53 penalties between £100 and £1,000.

Khalil Ahmed, a Bahrain-based pilot, and owner of three luxury cars who visits Britain over the summer months, told The National how some cars are souped up to make extra noise.

“For myself, I know how noisy my car is so I would never switch on late at night when I know people are sleeping, I wait to use it in the middle of the day because most people are at work.

“Some cars are very loud because they have been modified to be louder while some motorists intentionally rev their cars up. These people are [typically] young men in their thirties or even younger. They are trying to show off.”