x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Diesel price causes congestion headache

Problem shown in a nutshell as taxi and micro-bus collide in queue at crowded station in the capital.

ABU DHABI // Long queues of lorries and cars spilling out on to main roads have become a familiar sight at petrol stations on the island, and traffic police want them moved out of the city. A report by the traffic and patrols department of Abu Dhabi Police seen by The National points out what many motorists in the capital already know: the lure of cheaper diesel at Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) pumps - Dh10 (US$2.72) a gallon cheaper than at stations north of the emirate - is causing congestion on busy streets and leading to accidents.

On Sunday, at around 1pm, as lorries, buses and pickups converged on Adnoc pumps, a minor collision at a station at Fourth and 25th streets added to the frustration of drivers already waiting half an hour to fill their tanks. Bangim Arjam, a taxi driver, tried to create a third lane in the entrance to the station, but instead drove into a micro-bus, scratching one of the door mirrors on his silver cab in the process.

The bus driver, Ismail Shareef, abandoned his vehicle a few metres from the pumps. "Why did you come from the side?", he asked the taxi driver. "You should wait." But Mr Arjam, from Pakistan, said later: "I've been waiting for 30 minutes to enter. So I tried to overtake him from the right." Police say stopping the sale of diesel on the island, at least during rush hour, would help, as would opening exits and entrances away from main roads where possible, building more diesel stations off the island and ensuring that new stations were not opened in areas where road safety could not be guaranteed.

Maj Hussein al Harthi, head of the traffic engineering and road safety section in the traffic and patrols department, said the department had asked Adnoc to modify entrances on main roads and co-ordinate with traffic police on the choice of new sites. Officers were being sent to petrol stations to control vehicle movements and to break up lengthy queues, police said. A supervisor at the station on Fourth and 25th streets, who asked not to be named, said he had called the police twice to control traffic.

"Last Thursday night there were 45 trucks waiting to fill diesel, in addition to normal private cars who wanted petrol," he said. "Many problems occurred as cars tried to pass each other to get to the tanks, so we called the police. They arrived in five minutes and solved the problem." The supervisor said the new public buses took longer at the pumps than other vehicles because station staff had to record information about the transaction, including how much diesel they had supplied, the vehicle's licence-plate number and the driver's name.

Banning diesel supply inside the city could solve the problems, he said, but also hurt sales. An Al Ghazal bus driver, who also requested anonymity, was not happy to learn that the sale of diesel could be restricted to stations outside the city. "The problem is that all vehicles coming here are from Dubai," the man said, pointing out the Dubai licence plates in the queue. "Please, keep out of Abu Dhabi," he called out to the lorry drivers. "You are creating a problem for everyone."