Dubai: The battle to beat the traffic has led some workers to leave home earlier and earlier in the morning even before they have finished their night's sleep.
A growing band of Sharjah-based employees is now setting off so early to combat the rush hour that they are arriving at their Dubai offices way before they open and having a nap before work starts.
It does not seem to be having much effect on cutting traffic during peak hours the roads are as busy as ever then but at least it means a few people can enjoy the roads during those rare periods when they are quiet.
Among the merry group of early risers is Santosh Sugunan, a 38-year-old sales executive from India, who leaves home at 6.40am and reaches his Gold Souq office parking lot at 7.15am 45 minutes before work begins.
"If I leave home at 7 o'clock it is very difficult to reach there in time. I won't get there until 8.30am. Instead, I leave home early when the traffic is not so bad and have a sleep in the car before work.
"The traffic has increased so much. Seven years ago, when I moved to Sharjah, you could always reach Dubai in about 15 to 20 minutes. That's no longer the case," he said.
Fellow Indian Abdul Hamid, a 40-year-old bank officer who lives in Sharjah and works in Dubai, tells a similar tale.
He gets up at 5.15am, sets off in his car at 5.50am and reaches his office in Bur Dubai at about 6.45am an hour before work starts. "If I start early from home it can take only 45 minutes to reach the office, but if I delay by half an hour then it takes me twice as long. If I get delayed in Sharjah I cannot make it," he said.
Unlike Sugunan, Abdul Hamid does not try to catch up on his sleep before work. Instead, he turns on the car stereo and settles down with a copy of Gulf News until the time comes to clock on for another day's work.
"I just read the newspaper and listen to my CDs. I don't try to get some sleep if I did I wouldn't be in the mood for work afterwards. I just wait there and kill time there is no other option," he said with a shrug.
Bottleneck: Express highway will help cut congestion by 58%
More than 8,000 cars an hour use the Al Ittihad Road between Dubai and Sharjah at peak times, according to the most recent figures available, which are approximately two years out of date. The figure is now likely to be much higher.
- Traffic congestion on the road is increasing partly due to an annual 11 per cent rise in the number of vehicles registered in Dubai. There are 631,000 cars registered in Dubai and 70,000 with expired registrations.
- Plans costing Dh700 million have been announced to turn it into an expressway with a capacity of 12,000 vehicles an hour. It is predicted the work which will see the road size increased to between 13 and 17 lanes on both sides will reduce congestion by 58 per cent.
- Other main roads between Dubai and Sharjah include Beirut Street, Damascus Street and Emirates Road. Beirut Street became more popular last year when an airport tunnel linked to the road was opened, speeding up the journey between Dubai and Sharjah.
Infrastructure: New crossings, more lanes
Life should become easier for those travelling from Sharjah to Dubai or vice versa when a series of new bridges across Dubai Creek are completed.
Crossings over the Dubai Creek
- Al Garhoud Bridge: six lanes
- Al Maktoum Bridge: nine lanes
- Al Shindagha Tunnel: four lanes
Under construction crossings
- Ras Al Khor Bridge: 12 lanes
- New Al Garhoud Bridge: 13 lanes
- Floating Bridge: six lanes
- The Fifth Bridge: 12 lanes
- Al Shindagha Bridge: 12 lanes
(Note: the existing Garhoud Bridge will be demolished once the new one is ready in 2008)