Commuters and business owners applaud the move, intended to ease congestion, but freight companies see potential problems.
Abu Dhabi bans lorries during rush hours
ABU DHABI // Lorries are to be banned from the city during rush hour. Starting today, lorries and heavy vehicles weighing above 2.5 tonnes will be prohibited from entering the city, and from a section near Al Raha Beach, between 6am and 8am and between 1pm and 3pm, the Ministry of Interior announced on Saturday. Drivers who break the rules face fines and having their vehicles impounded. The move is intended to ease pressure on the island's roads, which have seen an increase in lorries and the Salam Street development combining in recent months to create long rush-hour traffic jams. The ban does not apply on public holidays and at weekends. Officials did not say how long the ban would last. Businesses in the Tourist Club area said they hoped the move would bring customers back. Some shops have reported a drop in profit because traffic jams are keeping their customers away. Lorry drivers caught breaking the ban will be fined Dh1,000 (US$270) and have their vehicles impounded for seven days. Repeat violations will result in another Dh1,000 fine and a 14-day impoundment. Drivers will be given eight points on their licences upon each violation. Lorries will also be prohibited from stopping on the sides of major roads during the restricted periods. A notice posted by the ministry in newspapers yesterday said the move was necessary because of the "growing number of development projects and roadworks, and in order to improve traffic movement within the city of Abu Dhabi". Lida Rizu, a waitress in a cafe in Abu Dhabi Mall, said she hoped the ban would help her get to work more easily. Since the roadworks began, she said, she has had trouble finding a taxi that would take her to the area. "Some days, five or six taxis will just refuse to take me to work," she said. "Now it's so hot, it's been very difficult." Shivani Adalja, a consultant interior designer at the Liv-in furniture showroom, across the street from Abu Dhabi Mall, hoped the measures would encourage people to come to the area. "Many of my clients I have to go and meet in other parts of town now," she said. "They just don't want to come over here any more. A five-minute journey has become half an hour now." Azad Farook, an administration manager for Expolanka Freight's Salam Street office, said the changes would adversely affect his haulage company because vital container deliveries took place during the early hours at Port Zayed. "With the loading and offloading time, these hours are exactly when we need to get on the roads," he said. "We will not be able to take as many containers now, which will mean we lose business as we just won't be able to deliver them." He said the new rules would make it almost impossible, in many cases, to deliver on time. "We just won't be able to customise requests for early delivery," he said. "They will mostly have to take place after 3pm now." Mr Farook said the company might be able to receive only one delivery a day instead of five or six. The new rules will affect lorries leaving development projects around the city, such as those on Reem and Sowwah islands and Al Raha Beach. The changes are also likely to affect the construction access to the Formula One site on Yas Island. Aldar, which is developing Al Raha Beach, said it was too early to assess the impact of the legislation, while Sorouh, which is developing Reem Island, was unavailable for comment. In the Tourist Club area, some workers hoped the ban would ease their journey to work in the morning, while stores reliant on morning deliveries said the impact would be felt immediately. The Abu Dhabi Co-Operative Society supermarket in Abu Dhabi Mall relies on fresh deliveries in the early hours. Hesham Mustafa, a supervisor at the Co-op, said: "Our fish and meat all arrives around 7am, so I don't know what will happen." Wagih Mansour, who runs the marina area beside Abu Dhabi Mall, said the changes had come too late to help the local businesses, some of which have suffered 40 per cent losses since the closures began. The marina has been threatened with closure to make way for development of the bridge to Sowwah Island. "It will make no difference now," he said. "We will never be able to make up for the money we've lost here. The legislation just comes too late to make any difference." In the Al Raha Beach area, projects such as the Aldar waterfront city and Al Danar financial district have seen the stretch of road between Sas al Nakl to Al Shahama become congested through much of the day. Jamie Leach, a lawyer who drives from Dubai Marina to Abu Dhabi each day, said: "Every day I see an accident on that stretch," he said. "The added weight of construction traffic has made the journey impossible compared to six months ago." firstname.lastname@example.org