x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dubai drivers count the costs as RTA scraps daily Dh24 Salik cap

More on transport: Cars that pass through Salik gates more than six times a day will not be given free passage from the seventh gate.

Dubai's RTA will be removing the Dh24 toll limit in their Salik system. Sarah Dea / The National
Dubai's RTA will be removing the Dh24 toll limit in their Salik system. Sarah Dea / The National

DUBAI // Drivers who pass through a Salik toll gate more than six times a day will soon have to pay for each extra passage.

It costs Dh4 a time to go through a toll gate, up to a maximum charge of Dh24 each day.

But the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) plans to remove this daily cap from July 15.

It said yesterday the move would not affect “the 95 per cent of private vehicles that do not pass the gates more than six times a day”.

But the impact will be felt by small-business owners, particularly those whose income depends on deliveries.

Jenny Joseph, the director of Jenny Flowers International, said his business had already been affected by Salik, and would be even more severely hit by the removal of the Dh24 maximum charge.

“What can I do? We try to avoid the gates when we can but I have 30 vehicles going out on delivery all day and sometimes we have to take the fastest route,” he said.

He hopes he will not have to increase the cost of his flowers.

“That would not be fair to my customers,” he said. “All I really want to do is make beautiful bouquets. But these costs are making it harder and harder every day.”

Businesses who use courier services might be indirectly affected, said Sandeep Chawla, the manager of the online shopping site, Arush.ae.

“We don’t handle deliveries, we use a courier company mostly,” he said. “But I’m sure if they’ve budgeted Dh24 per day and now will have to increase that drastically ... I can definitely see there will be price increases that will reflect on us as well.”

Small businesses have to be conscious of every dirham spent, said Tiffany Fowler, an assistant managing director of Upscale and Posh Flowers, which has four vehicles delivering flowers all over the city.

“We try to limit using Salik unless it is an emergency,” she said. “Our drivers are very careful to ask us if they should pass a Salik toll gate or not.”

There are six toll gates in Dubai: three on Sheikh Zayed Road and one each at Airport Tunnel, on Al Maktoum Bridge and on Al Ittihad Road.

The RTA said it was removing the daily cap to encourage more motorists use toll-free routes such as Al Khail and Mohammed bin Zayed roads.

“I really don’t know how removing the cap will help,” Mr Chawla said. “Right now, you have a choice of paying the tolls or using alternative roads that are further away and paying for fuel cost and time efficiency.

“It would be a better idea if they adjusted for rush hour. That would have a better impact on solving traffic.”

Private-vehicle owners who will be affected by the cap removal are equally annoyed. Among the 5 per cent who the RTA said would feel the sting is Khalid Al Ali, an Emirati financial analyst who commutes daily from the Greens to Dubai International Financial Centre.

“I pass four gates by just going to work and back. If I decide to have a social life and do anything outside my home that day, I pass the four gates again,” he said.

“I live on Sheikh Zayed Road and work on Sheikh Zayed Road – there really is very little I can do to avoid it.

“It feels like they are punishing us for living there.”

Not everyone is annoyed, however. Ishaq Yousif, an Emirati banker, said the existing gates were not succeeding in diverting traffic and suggested the RTA charge even more.

“Everyone complains about the Sharjah traffic,” he said.

“If the RTA is serious about solving traffic congestion, they should double the Salik tariff to Dh8 or more at Al Ittihad road gate. People always go for convenience and they shrug off the small cost.

“A substantial cost might make them think twice.”

Mr Yousif, an area manager of a UAE bank, passes through Salik gates up to eight times a day while visiting branches.

“I won’t change my route,” he said. “Some of the alternative routes are not that easy to access, and it would cost me fuel and, more importantly, time.”

malkhan@thenational.ae