Abu Dhabi toll lead
Picture used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The capital’s road toll system went live at 7am on Thursday after 79 days of trial operation since October 15.

Traffic was fairly smooth in the morning, without the usual congestion downtown during school drop-off as schools are on winter break. In fact, there were no visible signs that the system went live as motorists crossed the four toll gates.

The transport regulator, the Integrated Transport Centre, expanded the categories of people exempt from the toll charges, adding the elderly, retired personnel, individuals with special needs, families of the martyred and families with low income to a list that already includes, among others, public buses, taxis, and emergency response vehicles.

The ITC has affirmed the toll system is introduced with the aim of reducing congestion downtown, and in the hope that commuters will opt for more sustainable modes of transport, such as public transit and carpooling.

In recent months, the public bus system has, therefore, been enhanced, with 327 buses or 147 additional trips plying across the sites of the four toll gates, namely Al Maqtaa Bridge, Shaikh Zayed Bridge, Shaikh Khalifa Bridge and Al Khaleej Al Arabi Road, past Mussaffah Bridge.

Ibrahim Al Hammoudi, Director of the Surface Transport Sector at the Transport Department said the road tolls will reduce either existing or future peak-hour traffic congestion, citing the 7.5-km traffic jam on the Mussaffah Bridge at rush hours.

Al Hammoudi said the Government had spent Dh32 billion on roads, with their annual maintenance amounting to Dh1 billion.

While Abu Dhabi motorists should have their details registered on to the system free of charge, those from other emirates need to sign up and pay a Dh100 fee, Dh50 of which will be credited back to their account.

Maktoum Al Ka’abi, Director of Technology Sector at the Transport Department, said the Government planned building new highways over the next three years to offer commuters alternatives for the toll roads.

Many motorists said they were still having issues signing up to the Abu Dhabi’s road tolls system online, making changes to their accounts or topping up their accounts.

The toll gates work in a similar way to the longstanding Salik system in Dubai, where drivers are charged every time they pass under an active gate.

Transport authorities announced last month drivers will only be charged during rush hours, incurring a Dh4 charge each time a car passes through the gates between 7am and 9am, and from 5pm to 7pm.

The total amount for the day will be capped at Dh16 with Dh200 per month for the first car, Dh150 for the second car and Dh100 for any additional car.

Charges will also be waived on Fridays and public holidays.

Do you have to register even if you use the road outside peak hours?

Transport regulator, the Integrated Transport Centre, said motorists from other emirates are not required to sign up to the Abu Dhabi Road Toll System if they just pass through toll gates at off-peak hours.

They added drivers with Abu Dhabi registered cars will not incur fines if they do not top up their accounts. Fees will be collected when they renew their car registration.

Why is the website not working for some?

ITC officials said that the sheer number of people who want to visit the site to register at the last minute has caused the system to slow or crash. To avoid this they have asked motorists to visit the website at different times of the day outside of peak hours.