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Excerpt from UAE Dailies

Dubai-based hotels brace for toll system

DUBAI — APRIL 29: With the 24-hour toll system, "Salik", set to be imposed on vehicles plying on Shaikh Zayed Road and Garhoud Bridge from July this year, Dubai-based hoteliers have expressed concern that it would eventually mean an additional cost to the hotels, as they operate their own transport services to shuttle guests within the emirate.

In February this year, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) had announced that each vehicle passing through the toll gates installed on both sides of Garhoud Bridge and near the Mall of the Emirates will be charged a Dh4 toll for one way. The exact date of the toll system's implementation, however, is yet to be announced by the RTA.

The toll scheme aims to facilitate traffic management and reduce congestion by encouraging motorists to use public transportation, alternative routes, car pooling or single car occupancy within the same family.

The RTA has also announced that while the taxis — through the passengers — would have to shoulder the tariff, the other modes of public transportation like public and private school buses, as well as emergency vehicles are exempted from the toll.

Chahnaz Gayraud, General Manager of Coral Boutique Hotel Apartments in Al Barsha, said that while the toll scheme would not affect their guests, it would pose a challenge to their establishment as they would have to bear the extra cost for pick-up and drop-off of guests to and from the Dubai International Airport, or any areas frequently visited along the Shaikh Zayed Road.

This sentiment is shared by members of the Hotel and Hotel Apartment Group, which recently sought the assistance of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) to address the issue.

"The DTCM will discuss the matter with the RTA and revert to us," revealed Michael Nugent, General Manager of Mövenpick Hotel Bur Dubai. "We have an excellent relationship with the department and during our regular meetings, they sought our feedback and assured us that they would discuss it with the relevant authorities on our behalf," he said.

Nugent added that they had specifically enquired how the charges would be levied by the RTA for businesses that require frequenting the toll roads. "Will these businesses be granted exemption, or perhaps, a flat fixed annual fee per vehicle? We do not know yet," he said.

Once the policy is implemented in July, does it mean that expenses incurred through the toll system will be passed on to the tourists? This is the question that is uppermost in the minds of the hoteliers, some of whom told Khaleej Times that this possibility was not likely, and that they would do their best to safeguard the interests of their clients.

"We'll try to find ways to ensure that it does not negatively impact our guests. However, we'll await the feedback of the RTA, via the DTCM, before we can elaborate further. It is not in anyone's interest to impose any further costs on our guests and every effort will be made to avoid this," said Nugent.

Sharon Marett, JW Marriott Hotel Dubai's Cluster Director of Marketing Communications and PR, said they would prefer to wait to see the impact of the new toll system in general.

"Although we have 45 daily transport services to and from the airport, we are not directly affected by the toll scheme due to our location. We would listen to our customers' feedback so that we can continue making the right decisions as a hotel. Any future changes in our operation will be based on that," she disclosed.


Dubai - Take the bus in style

Dubai - April 30: Passengers will soon be served snacks by hosts and hostesses on new bus routes between Dubai and the other emirates, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said yesterday. Mohammed Obaid Al Mulla, CEO of Public Transport Agency at the RTA, said the buses would also have wireless Internet facilities, faxes, telephones and televisions.


RTA to upgrade skills of heavy vehicle drivers

DUBAI — April 30: In an attempt to reduce the number of accidents on the roads, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is embarking on a new mechanism for streamlining training and technical testing of drivers of heavy vehicles.

Maitha Mohammed bin Adai, CEO of Traffic & Roads Agency of RTA, stated that besides training to upgrade their driving skills, drivers would be given lessons on road safety awareness. Licenses would be issued to only the highly capable trainees.

She said the RTA was looking for specific locations in the city's suburbs for the training of drivers. The locations will be decided within a year, she added.

"These measures are intended to ensure traffic safety, minimising the number of accidents, stepping up protective measures and highlighting the importance of upgrading the efficiency of trainees. Training shall not be restricted to driving techniques only. It will also aim at boosting awareness among trainees' about various aspects of traffic safety. More efforts have to be exerted in order to motivate drivers towards adopting the best technical and behavioural practices," Maitha stated.

"This requires higher level of cooperation between RTA and the training institutes and boosting of mutual coordination for the sake of public interest and safety to all road users," she added.

Ali Aljasim, director of Licensing Department pointed out, "It is imperative that the technical aspects of drivers' testing should include subjecting each trainee to a precise internal test to ensure his skill particularly with regard to parking the truck with its trailers in a specific parking space and reverse driving to enter a garage.

Aljasim elaborated on the more common mistakes that lead to failure in driving tests, which include failure in determining the sufficiency of air pressure in the tanks, maintaining safe tracking distance, failure to negotiate the curves, failure to apply the handbrake before leaving the driving compartment and inattention to traffic lights and signs.


'Notify chickenpox cases'

AL AIN — April 30: The Al Ain School Health Administration (Aasha) has appealed to government and private schools in the city and its nearby areas to inform about chickenpox cases detected on their premises.

An Aasha official said schools should take measures to contain the spread of chickenpox. "Students with chickenpox should be subjected to infection control procedures (isolation) to protect other students," he said. Schools administrations should notify either Al Ain Preventive Medicine or Aasha in such cases.


Inter-city bus fleet to be raised to 280

DUBAI — April 30: The Inter-City Bus Department at the Public Transport Agency of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has announced that its current fleet of 110 buses will soon be raised to 280.

Mohammed Obaid Al Mulla, CEO of the Public Transport Agency, unveiled an integrated plan to develop the services the Inter-City Buses deliver including the addition of 170 new buses linking Dubai with Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah along with the main cities of Al Ain, Al Dhaid, Masafi and Jebel Ali.

The RTA will add 45 new buses early next month and 125 buses will be added early next year.

These buses will have facilities similar to those offered in flights. Snacks, wireless Internet connection, fax, telephone, TV screens and rest rooms will be available on these buses. There will also be facilities for people with special needs.

Al Mulla said by 2009, bus trips will be extended to cover Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and Syria by providing international air-conditioned stations in the UAE and the countries to be linked to the service. These stations will be similar to passengers' lounges at international airports as they will be provided with food courts, wireless Internet connection, rest rooms and other facilities.

He added that the buses will be electronically monitored by GPS.

Tickets will be sold at bus stations, shopping malls and the RTA's web site.


Dubai - Will you marry me?

Dubai - April 30: A convicted rapist has offered to marry a woman he is accused of sexually assaulting if she drops the charges against him. The man, along with a group of his friends, is alleged to have grabbed JR, 21, as she walked close to her employer’s house in Khorfakkan on April 19. She says she was bundled into a car and then driven off against her will.

“He and his friends took me to a deserted area in the mountains. His friends held me while he raped me in his car. Later, he wanted his friends to rape me too but I managed to open the car door. He shoved me out of the car while he sped off,” JR told 7DAYS.  The incident was immediately reported to Fujairah police and the accused has been in police custody since.

JR said she now just wants to go home to the Philippines. “I just want to return home… my mother has a heart ailment and had an attack recently when I told her that I was raped,” she said. Her alleged attacker, through JR’s sponsor, has offered to marry her, give her dhs7,000 and a ticket home if she drops the charges.

But Filipino Consul General, Antonio  Curameng, said that the accused should face trial, and not be allowed negotiate with the distraught victim.  This is the fourth time the accused has been involved in a rape case. Most recently, a 22-year-old was raped by the same man and fell pregnant after the attack. The accused offered  her dhs40,000 and a plane ticket home if she dropped the charges, but she persisted with the case and he was jailed for a year. “We were surprised to learn that the accused was out of jail and had even repeated the offence,” Tess Bautista, a Filipina community leader in Fujairah told 7DAYS.




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