Traffic on Mohammed Bin Zayed Road Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai/Sharjah: New road toll gates in Dubai improved the traffic flow on Ittihad Road between Sharjah and Dubai during morning and evening rush hours on the first day of their operation on Monday.

Majority of commuters reported lighter than usual traffic flows on toll roads and above average traffic on alternative routes.

Two new gate systems, called Salik, are now operational – one on Al Ittihad Road near Al Mamzar Bridge and the other on Beirut Road near Airport Tunnel.

Motorists with electronic Salik car tags will be automatically charged Dh4 each time they pass through the gates, with an upper limit of Dh24 a day regardless of the number of trips.

Though there are two separate gates on Al Ittihad Road — on both sides of Al Mamzar Intersection — motorists will be charged only once (Dh4) for crossing both of them. Commuters without Salik tags, or insufficient Salik account credit, will be fined if they pass through the gates. There are four other Salik gates in Dubai — two on Shaikh Zayed Road and one each on Al Maktoum and Al Gharhoud bridges.

Motorists have had mixed feelings about the Al Mamzar toll gate system on Al Ittihad Road, heavily used by Sharjah and Ajman-based commuters heading to work in Dubai and back.

“Al Ittihad [Road] is packed like any other day even with the new Salik gates. I think it’s too much to pay just to leave Sharjah and now with the new Salik gates I have to pay a total of Dh20 daily,” a US expat Lamees Basheer, 23, said.

Syrian motorist Salem Salahi, 24, another regular user of the road, added: “I left Sharjah at 7.15am and arrived in Dubai at 8.10am — to be honest, there was no difference. I don’t feel that the new Salik made any difference when it comes to Al Ittihad Road congestion.”

However, Ifran Malik, has a different opinion. “I saved at least 20 minutes of my time today as I left Al Majaz area in Sharjah at around 8 and reached my office near World Trade Centre on Shaikh Zayed Road within 30 minutes.”

Airport Tunnel, however, fared better with a number of commuters reporting lighter traffic.

“I noticed that the traffic had decreased a bit. I am not sure if it was because I left later than usual or [because of] Salik, but I hope the same will be true when I go back home at 6pm because it’s usually really congested then,” Eman Jabaat, 32, a Palestinian motorist, said.

Meanwhile, Sharjah-based commuters taking the non-toll roads to Dubai said they grappled with heavier than usual traffic — apparently caused by ‘Salik evaders’.

The alternative routes are mainly in Al Ghusais and Al Nahda areas, as well as Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed (SMBZ) Road, formerly called Emirates Road.

Mais Shabaan, a 23-year-old Palestinian, said: “Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road was a bit more congested than usual. I left Sharjah at 6.45am and arrived at 8.15am to work in Dubai.

“I noticed that there was a huge line of cars for those who wanted to take the Garhoud and Mirdif exits. My problem was in Sharjah; it took me 40 minutes to make a U-turn next to Safeer Mall [an exit before Al Mamzar toll gate].”

Another motorist who opted for toll-free Ghusais roads said traffic was especially heavy in the morning.

“I don’t understand why Salik has to be round-the-clock, they [RTA] should just charge for morning or evening rush hours,” said Zuhair H., 32.

Salik was first introduced in 2007 to ease congestion and the RTA says the system has dramatically improved traffic on Shaikh Zayed Road and Al Maktoum and Al Garhoud bridges.

The Authority has said it took the decision to place Salik on the new locations following traffic flow studies and expanding public transport services such as Dubai Metro and bus networks.