x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Traffic plan fails at 'Headache road'

Staggered start times at Al Ain schools have done nothing to alleviate traffic woes.

AL AIN // Staggered school timings have not eased traffic congestion in Al Ain after three weeks in operation.

The new times affected 20,000 pupils from 19 of the 33 schools on Khalid bin Sultan Street, known as "headache road".

"Al Ain Municipality has to do something else because this is not working," said Maj Mohsen Al Mansouri, the director of Al Ain traffic police.

School starting times were staggered from 7.45am to 7.30am, 8am and 8.15am.

The changes were part of a one-month pilot project by the municipality, the Department of Transport and the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

Maj Al Mansouri said the high number of vehicles delivering students in the morning caused gridlock and accidents, which occupied his department's time and resources.

But despite the changed timings, there is still traffic chaos.

"Every morning for two hours, 15 squad cars are preoccupied with this issue, taking them away from more urgent matters," he said.

More than 50 schools are located in the Manaseer area - too many for the current infrastructure, according to Maj Mohsen.

"We need at least four roundabouts to be changed into traffic lights, a widening of the roads and a service road to be added," he said.

He also believes the schools should encourage the use of buses.

"Why can't they reduce the bus fees and add a fee to the families choosing not to use the buses?" he asked. "They would still make money."

"The traffic outside school on the streets is perfect but in the morning, forget about it, it's very crowded," said Abu Sultan, 38, a teacher and parent who works at Choueifat International School.

He hoped the new timings would improve congestion outside his school, which kept its usual hours.

"In the morning it takes me three minutes to come to school by walking but 15 to 20 minutes by car," he said.

Gary Newnham, a father from the UK whose son attends the Al Ain English Speaking School, said the only solution was to avoid the main roads and arrive early, at 7.15am.

"That is the earliest I can get my son into the gate," he said. "If I'm 10 minutes later there is a lot of traffic."

Maj Al Mansouri believes the problem will get worse as the number of schools in the neighbourhood is set to increase.

"Every morning we monitor the situation and know there will be problems," he said. "If nothing is done there will be many more."

azacharias@thenational.ae

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