NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies / Agencies
Salik Opens - Mixed Reaction from Commuters
DUBAI - JUL 02: People across Dubai were left divided over the new Salik toll system as many were left stuck in long traffic jams, while others, especially those traveling over Garhoud Bridge, savoured empty lanes and free flowing traffic. Residents of The Greens complained the route leading to Sheikh Zayed Road from their homes was flooded with trucks and trailers dodging the tolls at Al Barsha.
In a desperate attempt to avoid paying dhs4, hundreds of vehicles coming from Abu Dhabi headed off Sheikh Zayed Road just before the Al Barsha gate, causing severe disruptions and tailbacks on the surrounding roads. “Massive trucks piled up on the back roads right up to Mall of the Emirates and Emirates Hills, making it impossible for any car to get out,” said one Greens resident, who requested anonymity.
However, commuters travelling over Garhoud Bridge were delighted at the impact Salik was having. “This is just great stuff,” said Saliil. “I travelled from Sharjah to Sheikh Zayed Road in just 25 minutes. This has never happened before. I think Salik is really cool.”
Emma, a media executive working in Garhoud, added: “It was great! I drove over the bridge in rush-hour and there was no traffic at all - I couldn't believe it.” Cheryl Pearce, who was travelling from The Greens to work near Wafi City, said: “It took me more than three hours to get to work - a journey that usually takes 25 minutes.”
The huge traffic jams also seemed to discourage taxi drivers from heading to the area. “I left the house as normal at 8am. Usually we get a cab within two minutes, but we queued for an hour and there were no taxis coming down our street. We walked through to another street thinking we might get one, but there were around 20 people in the same situation,” Pearce said.
Others driving to the same area also reported heavy traffic and said their travel times were significantly increased. “I got into the office at Media City at 7.15am after driving from Arabian Ranches and managing to dodge the charge. I have since heard colleagues who drove the same route were stuck for more than two hours and eventually went home rather than continuing into the office in Media City,” said Andy, who works in the area.
Motorists caught up on Maktoum Bridge also complained, saying the increase in vehicles had led to traffic remaining at a standstill for long periods of time. And Hamza, who lives on Rigga Road in Deira, said it took him three-and-a-half hours instead of the usual ten minutes to travel to his office in Deira City Centre.
“Some people were even walking on Maktoum Bridge towards Bur Dubai after waiting for taxis for hours,” said one taxi driver.
A tale of two cities
Residents' who left their cars at home to avoid tolls on the first day of Salik, were in for a surprise as taxis avoided most routes in the city. Hundreds of taxis belonging to National Taxi remained off the Salik roads as they were still to obtain their toll tags. “We have been asked to stay off those roads till we get our Salik tags,” said a National taxi driver. The company confirmed that they did not receive their tags yet and were quite upset about this delay. Similar situation was also experienced by Cars Taxi drivers who were also waiting for their tags.
Meanwhile, commuters in areas like Deira, Bur Dubai and Al Barsha were left without any taxis for hours. Taxis that stopped either refused to use the crowded Maktoum Bridge or just said they did not have their Salik tags. “A taxi driver insisted that he would take me to Al Quoz only if I use Garhoud Bridge and pay dhs4 for the tolls. When I refused he drove off. He obviously did not want to go to the more crowded Maktoum Bridge,” said Priya Kanta, a regular commuter to Al Quoz. RTA had announced that taxi drivers must leave the choice to the commuters whether they want to use the toll route.
Lucie Stephens told 7DAYS how she was forced to use the busy Maktoum Bridge after the taxi driver refused to use Garhoud Bridge since he did not have the Salik tag. “Traffic on Maktoum Bridge was a nightmare in the morning and I was stuck in it for nearly an hour. I was prepared to pay the toll amount but was still stuck in traffic since the drivers did not have the tags,” said Stephens.
Taxis coming from Sharjah are also awaiting their Salik tags though they informed 7DAYS that they have got an approval from RTA to use the toll routes and charge the customer for it.
When Salik was first announced, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said that alternate routes would be provided for those who did not wish to pay the toll. However, the much-anticipated Floating Bridge, which was scheduled to open at the same time Salik began, is still to be completed and drivers are now struggling to find different ways around town. Despite several road signs pointing motorists to the Floating Bridge, it is still not open for business and sources close to the project said it would take at least another week until the bridge would be ready for use.
By mid-day yesterday, several petrol stations had run out of tags as more and more people queued up to register for Salik. “We have run out of tags. We hope to get more stock tomorrow,” said a petrol station owner near Al Quoz. Furious motorists complained that they were not getting Salik tags despite trying at several different places. The RTA said it had distributed more than 160,000 tags by Saturday.
Confusion spread among car rental customers yesterday as they arrived to collect their sticky tags on the first day of the new system. While the majority of companies are now busy issuing the last of the late-arriving stickers, some customers have been told their accounts won't actually be activated until tomorrow and to avoid the possibility of fines they should continue to avoid the toll gates until then.
One said: “I thought there was a grace period? I'm so confused. Why does it take so long to activate them? It's just added irritation I could have done without after having driven to the office to collect it, through a toll booth, in the first place.”
However, at least these tags were valid from yesterday, a luxury some customers on yearly agreements with another leading rental company are apparently unable to experience until tomorrow at the earliest. Despite some drivers expressing anger at the news, several companies plan to charge an extra dirham per toll pass, and one car rental staff member said the majority of customers had been very understanding and were avoiding the tolls regardless.
Dubai - Pregnant woman killed
Dubai - Jul 02: A man went on trial yesterday accused of murdering his pregnant wife and her unborn child after smashing her head into the bathroom wall in a jealous rage. It is alleged the man was suspicious that the baby was not his and was convinced his wife, who worked as a housemaid, was cheating on him as she received phone calls from a number of strangers.
Last November, after the pair argued over who the father of the baby was, the woman left to take a shower at the house she stayed at in Arabian Ranches. The man is alleged to have followed her there and then savagely beaten her before fleeing the house.
The family the woman lived with only realised what had happened when blood began to seep under the bathroom door the next day. In court yesterday the man denied all charges. The case has now been adjourned until later this month.
Ras al Khaimah - Girl dies in house fire
Ras al Khaimah - Jul 02: An eight-year-old girl died after an air conditioning unit fell on her as her family desperately tried to save her from a fire. The horrific accident happened after an unexplained fire began in the Pakistani family’s house. This soon spread to a gas cylinder, which exploded, causing the fire to spread even quicker.
The family rushed outside and it was only once there that they realised the little girl was still trapped inside. They tried to get to her through a vent, but as they did so they knocked an air conditioning unit free, which then fell on the girl.
By the time Civil Defence officers got to her it was already too late and she was pronounced dead. An investigation into the fire is now under way.
Dubai - Workers to go home
Dubai - Jul 02: Passes were given to hundreds of illegal workers at the Indian High School yesterday, allowing them to leave the country under the terms of the recently announced amnesty. Yesterday was the first day the passes were available and the Indian Consulate estimated it had distributed between 800 and 1,000 to those who queued. “Finally… I can head back to my country,” said Timu Anna, a cleaner who has spent over a decade as an illegal in Dubai.
Singing a hip, new tune with Etisalat
UAE - Jul 02: Etisalat has announced that it will add a large selection of tunes from EMI Music, one of the world’s largest recorded music companies, to its ringtone services. The telecom operator said the move makes EMI Music the first global company to offer its music to this service for consumers in the UAE.
The ringtones will be available on the Greetune service, which was launched in July last year. The service already offers a wide range of ringtones and audio clips, including Islamic content, popular music, poetry, and funny tones in Arabic, English, Hindi and other languages. Customers can subscribe to Greetune via SMS by sending 'r greetune' as a text message to 1010 or by dialling 125 (for both GSM and Wasel customers) and then following the instructions.
While there will be no subscription fees for joining the service, a monthly fee of five dirhams will be applicable. Customers will be able to store up to 20 different Greetune tones in their personal ringtone collection, Etisalat said. EMI Music, part of Britain’s EMI Group - one of the top four music companies in the world - boasts a roster of top-notch artistes including Joss Stone, Coldplay, Robbie Williams, Norah Jones, The Chemical Brothers, Gorillaz and others.
EMI’s many record labels include Angel, Astralwerks, Blue Note, Capitol and Virgin. Etisalat has been on a major offensive this year to woo custoers, launching a wide array of services as it fights off a challenge from new entrant du.
Construction of Dubai Metro's Red Line Project remains on track
Dubai, Jul 01:The Dubai Metro project is progressing well with over 5km of the rail viaduct installed and 20 of the 24 elevated stations reaching the advanced stages of substructure construction.
The seven launching gantries operating at various strategic locations along the elevated section of the Dubai Metro have now installed over 140 viaduct spans comprising over 1200 pre-cast concrete viaduct segments, as the project visibly takes shape.
The launching gantries provide a fast-track installation process which enables the installation of a complete viaduct span in roughly two days. Pre-cast concrete segments are transported, on demand, from Jebel Ali Casting Yard to the launching gantry sites using heavy haulage trucks.
Whilst the majority of the viaducts will be installed using the launching gantries, other viaduct installation methods include ground support and balanced cantilever methods. These are due to commence in August and December this year respectively. The choice of installation methodology is dependent on site conditions.
The viaducts are supported on piers which are in turn supported on piled foundations. So far, over 1200 piles (75%) and 700 piers (60%) have been constructed.
The construction of the elevated stations has also been progressing well. The substructure of 20 of the 24 elevated stations is well advanced with over 750 piles (70%) completed to date.
The most visible part of the stations, the steelwork superstructure, is due to commence later this year. This will mark the start of the final stages of the projects construction and the early stages of the fitting out, rail system, electrical and mechanical works.
Mohammed bin Zayed receives departing Indian envoy
Abu Dhabi, Jul.02: General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received today out-going Indian Ambassador Chandra Mohan Bhandari.
During the courtesy meeting,Sheikh Mohammed praised constructive efforts made by the Indian envoy during his tenure to boost friendly bilateral relations. He wished the departing envoy success in his new assignment.
On his part, Mr. Bhandari expressed profound gratitude to Sheikh Mohammed for the great cooperation given him by the authorities concerned during the course of discharging his duties in the country.
He said that such assistance had contributed significantly to the enhancement of bonds of cooperation and friendship.
He also lauded the outstanding stature the UAE has occupied at regional and international levels and the progress it has made under the prudent leadership of President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
He affirmed that India was keen to further strengthen bilateral relations to serve mutual interests.