Traffic proceeding to Sharjah from Dubai on Emirates Road during evening rush hour. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Residents commuting from Sharjah to Dubai fear a return to pre-2008 conditions that forced them to leave home before dawn to beat the morning rush hour.

There is concern those days might be returning as a fast-growing UAE economy and regional unrest draws more people to the UAE. Detours and road improvement works on main arteries like Emirates Road and Sharjah Ring Road are also causing traffic snarls.

Commuters complained that they are having to rise earlier to make it to work on time because of heavy traffic on Dubai-Sharjah roads.

During the property boom, some motorists left home when it was still dark and slept in their cars after reaching their workplaces.

According to Dubai Roads and Transport Authority statistics, there are more than a million vehicles registered in Dubai.

Emirati engineer Ali Rashid, 33, leaves his Sharjah villa in Ramaqia area at 5.50am to report for duty on Airport Road in Dubai by 7.30am.

“Traffic is getting worse; I now leave home right after dawn prayers. It’s a long and frustrating drive to work, and I feel drained when I should be fresh in the morning,” Rashid said.

Z.H., an Indian commuter from Sharjah in his late 30s, said: “I used to leave home at 5.30am when I was living in Abu Shagara. I moved closer to Dubai — to Al Taawun area — but I still find myself getting up very early because of increasing traffic congestion.”

A middle-aged Pakistani resident who lives on Sharjah Corniche and works on Shaikh Zayed Road in Dubai, also complained about increasing commuting times.

“It can take one-and-a-half hours or more to get to Dubai depending on where you work and what route you take. It shouldn’t be this bad, the police should manage the traffic,” he said.

Police officers in Sharjah and Dubai are often seen managing traffic in problem areas, but motorists say the deployment doesn’t help the situation in some cases.

Rashid explained: “When the police are there, you have to get in line well in advance before the exits or they fine you for cutting in. It helps those commuters who are using the lanes going straight, but for those who need to take the exit, it means a longer line.

“When the police are not there, motorists sort of all merge together and traffic keeps moving, even if slowly. I guess this wouldn’t happen if everyone followed rules, with or without police presence.”

Compounding the issue are bottlenecks caused by the merging of lanes on main roads linking Dubai and Sharjah.

The Ministry of Public Works is widening roads and building interchanges to improve traffic flows. It is expanding the capacity of Emirates Road and Sharjah Ring Road and building interchanges along one stretch on the highway.

“But until those projects are done, the construction and detours only add to the tailbacks, meaning more time on the road,” Rashid said. Compounding the problem are road accidents, which are not rare on Dubai-Sharjah commutes.

“In places where there is no hard-shoulder to pull over after an accident, you get stuck really bad. A small accident causes an even bigger problem for other road users.”

The RTA suggests the use of park-and-ride facilities in Rashidiya and Etisalat metro stations, not far from Sharjah.