Clearing the air of uncertainty over the implementation of toll gates in Abu Dhabi from Tuesday, October 15, the Department of Transport - Abu Dhabi (DoT) has clarified that motorists will not be charged until January 1, 2020. Moreover, some fee exemptions and monthly caps were announced too.
Residents across the UAE whom Khaleej Times spoke to in the past few weeks were anxious as they had issues creating an account to register their vehicles and then top-up for payment. Also, Abu Dhabi registered vehicle owners hadn't received the SMS with details of their automatic accounts. Adding to technical snags, one of the four toll gates on Mussafah road had to be relocated due to faulty placement. With all these concerns, something had to give and on Sunday evening in a series of tweets, Abu Dhabi Government Media Office announced a raft of new measures.
"@AbuDhabiDoT announced that the Abu Dhabi Traffic Toll Gate System will commence on 15 Oct 2019 on a free of charge basis until 1 Jan 2020. This trial period will provide residents more time to plan the best travel times and explore transport alternatives."
New exemptions, monthly cap
Apart from this surprising late call, the DoT added new set of exemptions, which were so far only for nine types of vehicles.
"The system has been developed with the aim of reducing traffic congestion while limiting costs for residents. Once fees are implemented, senior citizens, retirees, people of determination and low-income earners will be exempt, according to eligibility."
In addition to existing daily cap of Dh16 per vehicle, new monthly limit is introduced. A motorist needs to pay only Dh200 for first vehicle, Dh150 for second and Dh100 for each additional vehicle.
"Abu Dhabi Toll Gates fees are the lowest of any other similar international system, taking into account that the UAE ranks first globally for the quality of its roads according to the Global Competitiveness Report issued by the World Economic Forum," Abu Dhabi Government Media Office tweeted.
A person aware of these developments, on condition of anonymity, had told Khaleej Times that with few persisting concerns, tolls could be 'made free for some time' and it will be made 'part of a study' to get feedback from residents.
Residents cheer DoT tweets
Motorists, expectedly, are relieved but understand the need to reduce vehicles on the roads and preservation of environment - the core idea behind tolls.
"This is amazing news. The SMS with details is still pending. So, I was actually expecting similar announcement today or tomorrow. We colleagues were discussing about tolls this afternoon. This decision from the DoT makes sense. There is enough time to iron out flaws and for us to adjust with the situation," Faisal Abdul, a long-time resident and engineer at a private firm, said.
Subin Mathew, an Abu Dhabi resident, is delighted with Dh200 monthly cap, which will save him few more dirhams. "I had calculated my travel and it was easily topping Dh300 with multiple travels during peak hours between the city and Mussafah. We have time till January, which is awesome. So we have few more months of saving. But I will stick to my plan of cutting down on rides and probably try carpooling, which is new topic of discussion for us. It's a noble thought."
Meanwhile, Jafar Iqbal, who is a part-time driver, is skeptical as to how the low-income exemption will work. "I am happy that tolls are pushed back. I work as a part-time driver and make Dh1,000 or so. I serve a family and help transfer people as per need. There are many like me in Mussafah who work but don't have a salary certificate to show."
More residents Khaleej Times spoke to are all in joyous mood courtesy this late reprieve from the DoT. Life returns to normalcy on roads for all of them until the New Year.