Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Salik Day Approaches

Much has been written in the press and in the blogs (Grumpy Goat, Half Man Half Beer, Secret Dubai) about the impending launch (and hopefully rapid sinking) of 'Salik', the imbecilic road toll scheme that is due to start operating near Garhoud Bridge and Mall of the Emirates on July 1st. There have been public spats between the Police and the RTA about it. Gulf News in the last few days has reported the unanimously unfavourable opinions of many Dubai residents. In the keep-your-head-down-and-don't-rock-the-boat culture of Dubai, this is not far from open rebellion.

I enjoyed this comment:

Salah Bu Farousha, Traffic Public Prosecutor, said he supports Salik, but has reservations.
"It is a trial and we should not make premature conclusions. If people do not cooperate, it will be a problem. I am sure RTA has approved this project after thorough studies. Recently traffic police were asked if they are ready in case of traffic congestions and they said yes they are ready," he said.

Do I detect a note of irony in the above? And this is the first time I've heard the scheme described as a trial. Nice one Salah - hopefully the RTA will adopt this terminology so they won't be too embarrassed when either Sheikh Mohammed or the sheer unworkability of Salik forces them to postpone the damn thing.

Not wishing to gloat or anything, but I will be out of Dubai about a week after the chaos mayhem bedlam scheme starts. But I do feel that every word of justification uttered by the TRA on this subject is disingenuous tosh. The object of this scheme is nothing more or less than to extract more money from drivers. If it were otherwise then the scheme would only operate at peak times, rather than the proposed 24 hours a day. There are zero viable transport alternatives available. Having recently tried to use the 8A bus 'service' from the Gardens to Media City, I have found the timetabling to be a cynical work of fiction. If you use a taxi, you'll have to pay the toll. The Metro is still two years away.

The saddest thing about this disaster-in-the-making is the blinkered attitude of RTA management. It will cause much more congestion at peak time as thousands upon thousands of cars try to get off SZR before going under a toll gantry. Once you've passed the toll gate, you will be able to hurtle along at 120 kph. But before you get to that you will be stuck in the queue of people trying to get off the road because they do not want to pay the toll - at Mall of the Emirates this will mean SEVEN lanes of traffic trying to organise itself into TWO lanes for the last free exit. There will be chaos like you've never seen before - and we've all seen some chaos on Dubai's roads. Many roads in Bur Dubai which are already overloaded, will grind to a complete halt. Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah Road and Al Sufouh Road will all be jammed solid. Emirates Road and Al Khail Road are already over capacity.

And yet the TRA will claim a great success because the stretches of road immediately before and after the toll gates will show a huge reduction in traffic.

If this is indeed about money, why not slap a few hundred dirhams on the annual vehicle registration fee? I don't think people actually mind paying a bit of money extra if they know it helps to improve the infrastructure. But to have to pay extra money to join a scheme that is ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEED TO INCREASE CONGESTION is madness, pure and simple.

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