x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Cost of traffic plan: time and money

Police say ban cuts back on accidents, but commuters report long delays and hauling companies say it's hurting their business.

Lorries cross the Maqta Bridge on to Abu Dhabi island on Tuesday.
Lorries cross the Maqta Bridge on to Abu Dhabi island on Tuesday.

ABU DHABI // Commuters are losing time and haulage companies losing money because of restrictions that limit the movement of lorries during Ramadan. Traffic police banned lorries from entering the island from 7.30am until 9am and from 1pm until 3pm in a bid to ease traffic during the Ramadan rush hours. Police said the move has reduced the number of accidents from last year.

But many commuters who enter the capital near the times of day when the restrictions end say that they are being delayed by up to 30 minutes as large numbers of lorries begin to rumble into the city all at once. And haulage companies say they are losing customers because of the delays, and they are having to pay drivers overtime to make deliveries at night. Murtaza Salim, 32, a banker from Canada who lives in Dubai and drives to his office in Abu Dhabi every morning, said traffic had built up in the Al Raha beach area since the beginning of Ramadan.

"Near the construction in Al Raha where much of the area is blocked, the traffic gets really nasty," he said. "On Sunday I saw around four or five accidents in the area, one of the accidents the car was turned upside down." Ghassan Deeb, 45, the Palestinian owner of a manufacturing company for firefighting equipment, said he was stuck in traffic for 20 minutes at Al Raha yesterday at 3.30pm after the afternoon restriction was lifted.

"There were a lot of lorries and an accident," he said. "But the traffic was mostly from the large number of lorries on the road." Mr Deeb said he travels to Dubai three mornings a week and returns after 3pm, yet was never stuck in traffic before Ramadan. He said he is considering leaving Dubai after 5pm during Ramadan to avoid traffic. Mohammed Radwan, deputy manager of Car Recovery, a company for transferring vehicles based in Dubai, said business has slowed since the ban started. Before Ramadan, heavy vehicles were also banned from entering the island, but for a shorter time between 6am and 8am. "We have to send more drivers at night since there is no night ban, which means we have to pay the drivers overtime," he said. "And as a result we increase the fees for the customer to compensate for the extra costs.

"We explain the situation to them, some customers accept it, while others decide to shift to another company. However, when they go to other companies they find similar prices, because it is the same situation for all, so some come back to us and some we lose." Reji Alex, sales manager of Reji Shipping, based in Dubai, suffers a similar situation. "The lorries have to wait for a long time until they open the road, and the customers are always complaining because of the delay.

"It is costing me more money. I don't know exactly how much I lost but I did lose money heavily since the ban started. "We also have to pay the drivers overtime because we send them at night." He said Abu Dhabi is full of business but because of the situation, his company is accepting fewer jobs. Col Hamad al Shamsi, the head of the traffic and patrols department at Abu Dhabi Police, said the restrictions would stay in place.

"We won't cancel the ban. It has proved very effective in reducing accidents. "Even in Dubai and Sharjah they started applying it because they saw that this year the accidents we've had are not like last year," he said. "Last year we had accidents every day. This year they were very minor, mostly caused by motorists not leaving enough space between them and the vehicle in front of them." Regarding commuters who are suffering from the number of lorries piling up outside the island, he said they should be aware of the timings.

"We cannot completely ban the lorries from entering the island, they have to be released at some point. "We have big projects and businesses, and these lorries have business inside." hdajani@thenational.ae