NEWS FROM THE UAE
Source : The National
Vehicle inspection charge to double
ABU DHABI - JAN 25: The cost of the inspection required for a vehicle licence will double next week, rising to Dh120 (US$33) from Dh60, Abu Dhabi Police and Adnoc announced yesterday.
The decision to raise inspection fees on February 1 the first increase in 10 years coincides with the energy company’s plan to increase the number of inspection bays at its centres in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, cutting waiting times to six minutes from 10 minutes.
A mobile inspection centre for use in remote areas such as Delma Island, and at companies and government departments with large fleets, will also be introduced.
More vehicle inspection centres would open in the next six months, said Nasser Ali al Hammadi, the assistant general manager for retail at Adnoc.
“The mobile station will serve the island, Delma, until we have built there and it will also help to serve the big companies, like big taxi companies,” Mr al Hammadi said at a press conference.
Last month, Adnoc and Abu Dhabi Police signed an agreement for the energy company to expand its vehicle-inspection services.
Without disclosing all the locations of the planned new inspection centres, Mr al Hammadi said there would be one on the Corniche and others at Al Mushrif petrol station and in Khalifa City A.
Others were scheduled for Al Ain, and Madinat Zayed in Al Gharbia.
“The Western Region is very important,” said Mr al Hammadi. “There is the Abu Dhabi plan to develop the Western Region, and we are planning to go with that.”
The price increase was not well-received by motorists waiting at the vehicle inspection centre off Airport Road yesterday
“It is too much,” said Rizwan Sultan al Malik, an Abu Dhabi resident, sitting in his Honda Civic.
“Everything is high. Accommodation is very expensive. I am a student studying for a bachelor’s degree in business administration. My father gives me about Dh300 a month, so how can I manage?”
Raval, from Ruwais, who declined to give his last name, agreed that the price increase was tough, but said it would be worthwhile if it meant faster and expanded services.His Mitsubishi Pajero, which he planned to buy second-hand, was being inspected yesterday.
“Other companies check for any touch-ups or if the car has been involved in a collision,” he said.
“So if I am going to buy a second-hand car, I take it first there and then come for inspection here. If they check everything, that would be better for us.”
Vehicle inspections include checking the quality of tyres, examining the chassis and vehicle structure and an emissions test. Last year, 450,000 vehicles were inspected at Adnoc centres.
Mr al Hammadi said the price increase was necessary to recoup some of the costs of the expansion and upgrades, as well as Adnoc’s Emiratisation programme.
About 50 per cent of employees in the company’s vehicle inspection department are Emiratis, including 21 qualified technicians licensed by Abu Dhabi Police, according to Adnoc.
Adnoc said it was moving ahead with plans to introduce “green diesel”, which has a sulphur content of 10 parts per million, compared with its current diesel, which has 500 parts per million.
The company has an agreement with an unnamed company to introduce inspection services for vehicles running on natural gas, a cleaner alternative to petrol.
Last year, the company announced plans to build 16 compressed natural-gas pumping stations.
Car parks give women priority
ABU DHABI - JAN 25: Joe Lynch, a 75-year-old retiree from Canada, will not be able to take advantage of the 135 prime parking spots in the capital now reserved for women.
But he is pleased with the Department of Transport decision, nonetheless, for the sake of his 30-year-old daughter.
“A lot of things can happen in these underground parks,” Mr Lynch said. “I’ve seen it in other countries. “It can be very dark down there.”
Responding to concerns raised by women about often poorly lit underground parking structures, the Emirate’s transport department has set aside women-only spaces in six multi-storey car parks around the capital.
The spaces were marked last weekend by a slip of white paper warning of new penalties for males seeking easy parking spots close to elevators and entrances.
It stated: “Dear members, It is a parking offence to park in the ladies parking section.”
However, clear new signs will be installed in the lots soon, the Emirate’s transport department said.
Most of the parking spaces are close to exits allowing women to enter and leave the lot quickly and safely.
The spaces have been allocated in the car park behind the Liwa Centre, on the Corniche, behind the Zakher Hotel, behind the Ministry of Health on Liwa Street and behind Al Noor hospital.
“This is applied for several reasons, mainly concerning females’ security and safety,” the department said in a statement. “A request from ladies was raised about the issue and was taken into consideration.”
Details about the reserved spaces, including the penalties if men park in them, are to be released in the coming weeks.
Residents and local car-park workers said they supported the new spaces.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Huda Tabbaa, 27, a teacher from Syria.
“Especially if you have babies, you need to find parking fast,” she said while restraining her one-year-old son.
“I’m really happy about [the spaces],” said Sarah Dajani, 32, a receptionist from the UK, shortly after parking in one of the reserved spots. “I’ve never had any problems here with safety, but it can get dark at night.”
Mohammed Khair, the supervisor at the lot near the Zakher Hotel said 15 spaces had been set aside for women near the elevators. The new spaces did not affect handicapped parking.
“If 100 ladies come in, there will still be plenty of spaces,” he said, adding that the system was not compulsory, and women can park anywhere if they choose. He also said he had received no complaints from men about premium places being reserved.
A security guard at the garage said the spots would be particularly beneficial for larger women as the lifts tend to break down.
“Then it’s a big problem,” said Manoj Chaulakkuttiyl.
The spaces are being reserved amid a wider campaign to reform the capital’s parking system. Under the transport department’s Mawaqif meter system, sections of the city core are now charging fees which, in conjunction with stricter enforcement, are intended to discourage illegal parking practices such as leaving vehicles in the middle of the road, or along kerbs.
Drivers must now pay between Dh2 and Dh3 per hour or buy Dh800 annual residents’ passes to use one of the 75,000 spaces being introduced over the next two-and-a-half years.
The system has received mixed reviews from residents and local workers. The section governed by Mawaqif is now nearly empty during the daytime and quickly fills to capacity at night, when parking is still free. Meanwhile, in the surrounding areas, workers have said it now takes even longer to find legitimate parking spaces.
Paid parking is being expanded to cover 19 sectors of the city by the end of the year. The Emirate’s transport department said since Mawaqif was introduced in October, underground parking lots have noted a 25 per cent increase in use.
Cameras in patrol cars boost policing
DUBAI - JAN 25: Police will soon be viewing accident and crime scenes via a live video feed from 260 patrol cars using a citywide system introduced in Dubai yesterday.
Cameras mounted on cars, linked to the operations room using wireless technology, allowed officers to view incidents as they unfolded, officials said.
It would give them the information they needed to make decisions on how to deploy resources, said Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the Dubai Police chief.
“This new system will speed up the decision-making process, as police officers will be able to evaluate the situation on the ground much closer and take the necessary measures much quicker,” he said.
About 15 per cent of the police patrol capacity will be equipped with a camera by the end of this year. The new system will encompass all types of patrols.
The camera begins operating as soon as the vehicle’s engine starts. Officers in the operations room can monitor it at any time. Footage will be archived for use in investigations.
The technology was first introduced in a pilot project in October 2008, and a wider deployment began in June 2009. The system will be fully operational this year.
At present, the system does not provide sound, but officials hope to introduce it.
Although the system would be effective in handling traffic accidents and assessing the reasons behind them, it would not be used to catch traffic offenders, Lt Gen Tamim said.
“This year is the year of information technology for Dubai Police,” he said. “We will develop several surveillance technologies to enhance public security.”
Police in Abu Dhabi yesterday blamed tailgating drivers for 69 accidents in the emirate over the past three months.
Two of the accidents involved fatalities.
The disclosure came at the launch of a campaign to reduce tailgating, which involves motorists driving too close to the vehicle in front.
Col Hamad al Shamsi, the director of Abu Dhabi Traffic Police, said two people died and 61 were injured in the accidents, which involved 106 people.
Fifty drivers aged 18 to 45 caused most of the accidents.
Officers who launched the “Leave Space Before It’s Too Late” campaign said tailgating was one of the main causes behind serious accidents.
Col al Shamsi said an analysis of accidents over the three months demonstrated an increase in the number of crashes caused by tailgating, although no exact figures were available.
When drivers got too close to the car in front, honking and flashing their lights for the vehicle in their lane to move, the driver ahead could lose concentration, increasing the chances of an accident, Col al Shamsi said.
With their “aggressive” attitude, tailgaters could become “potential murderers”, he added.
As part of the campaign, police will increase traffic patrols, especially in unmarked cars, throughout Abu Dhabi. The move is aimed at catching tailgaters and making motorists aware of the police presence. Police have said they will use unmarked cars as well as taxis and lorries in the sweeps.
The penalty for tailgating is a Dh400 (US$108) fine and four black points.
Burj Khalifa signs go up on Dubai’s roads
DUBAI - JAN 25: Workers have installed the first road signs bearing the new name of the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa.
Two signs, one on Sheikh Zayed Road and the other between Al Wasl Road and the Defence Interchange, were installed overnight on Saturday, apparently the first to point the way to Burj Khalifa after its name was changed from Burj Dubai at its January 4 inauguration.
The change caught many residents and officials by surprise, including the Roads and Transport Authority, which was suddenly faced with replacing dozens of road signs and possibly renaming the tower’s newly opened Metro station.
Motorists spotted the two new signs yesterday after they were erected overnight. Both are brown, the colour used for signs indicating points of interest such as heritage sites and tourist attractions.
Motorists said the new road signs could cause some confusion for tourists who were unaware of the tower’s change of name.
“I noticed it this morning but it’s like anything here in Dubai: roads change almost daily and there is a new tower or junction around every corner,” said Richard Cartwright, 31, a chef from Australia.
“But it will be tourists who have seen it on websites or heard about it and may see it on old maps as Burj Dubai and will end up confusing taxi drivers or themselves,” he said.
The RTA has so far not announced what will happen to the name of the adjoining Metro station, until yesterday still known as Burj Dubai station.
Yesterday evening, however, the F16 feeder bus to the Burj Dubai Metro station displayed Burj Khalifa as its final destination.
Sheikh Issa verdict will stand
ABU DHABI - JAN 25: The 15-day period for filing an appeal in the trial of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed expired yesterday, formally concluding the proceeding.
Sheikh Issa was acquitted on January 10 of abusing an Afghan grain vendor on a farm near Al Ain due to “diminished responsibility” brought about by drugs that the sheikh had been tricked into taking.
The court held that two Lebanese-American brothers, Bassam and Ghassan Nabulsi, former business partners of Sheikh Issa, drugged him and taped the sheikh as he abused Mohammed Shapoor, in an apparent effort to blackmail the sheikh.
The court said two witnesses saw Ghassan Nabulsi put a pill in Sheikh Issa’s drink.
Mr Shapoor was hospitalised for more than 20 days after the incident, according to court documents. He settled out of court with Sheikh Issa for an undisclosed sum.
According to Islamic law, as cited by the judge in the verdict: “A drunk person cannot be punished for his crimes if he did not know the content he was drinking contains alcohol and this drunkenness caused him to commit a crime while he is mentally unaware.” The judge cited several cases in Egypt’s supreme court in which the argument of diminished responsibility was used successfully.
The Nabulsis were sentenced in absentia to five years each. Three other men, accused of helping restrain or abuse Mr Shapoor, received sentences of one to three years. Another man, accused of being a security officer who appeared in the video, was acquitted because he could not be positively identified.
Sheikh Issa is suing the Nabulsis over damage to his reputation.