NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
First taste of tolls - Salik Opens
Dubai - Jul 01: After weeks of publicity, numerous “will they, won’t they” rumours and despite several online petitions to stall, Dubai’s drivers get their first taste of Salik today as the new tolling system roars into action. Petrol stations across the emirate were inundated with motorists desperate to buy their dhs100 sticker tag ahead of the activation of toll gates on Garhoud Bridge and Sheikh Zayed Road (Al Barsha Gate) this morning.
But while tens of thousands of the tags have been successfully issued to drivers in Dubai ahead of the deadline, several hire car companies yesterday had failed to receive their tags in time and now face a deluge of potential fines from customers needing to use the tolled routes.
An RTA spokesperson said: “Some companies and businesses were apparently late in submitting their applications for Salik and so the tags have not yet arrived. Those who applied sooner have received theirs. Drivers awaiting tags are advised to use alternative routes until their tags arrive if in doubt as to whether their hire company will pay the fine.”
The toll system, introduced by Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) is aimed at encouraging motorists to take alternative routes and use public transport. And the tolls start just a day after Dubai was rated the most congested city in the Middle East. A survey by Gulf Talent.com claims professionals in Dubai spend an average of one hour and 45 minutes each day commuting to and from work - with those travelling to the emirate from nearby Sharjah spending two hours and 44 minutes every day on the roads in their cars.
Dubai also topped the list as the city with the most acute shortage of parking space - with almost half of all the respondents reporting they had difficulty finding parking spaces near their workplace.
GulfTalent.com, which interviewed 5,000 professionals across 14 major cities in the Middle East, stated: “Many people in Dubai and Sharjah reported having to leave home much earlier than necessary to avoid the morning rush and secure a parking space closer to their place of work.”
RTA enhances Salik Call Center to receive calls 24/7
Dubai - Jul 01: Roads and Transport Authority RTA has enhanced the performance of Salik Call Center and enable it to answer motorists queries 24/7 about Salik system, to be launched tomorrow.
Eng. Salah Mohammad Al Marzouqi Deputy Director of Traffic Department Intelligent Traffic Systems Manager Traffic Department Roads & Transport Authority, said that the call center is receiving calls 24/7 and providing all necessary information related to the Toll system in Arabic, English and Urdu, as part of the RTA's thrust to communicate with the public and spread awareness in the new service.
"The RTA wants to reach out to the largest possible number of road users in our community," Al Marzouqi said. "Our call centre operators are trained to provide complete information about the toll system, from the locations of the electronic gates to the mechanics of the system and (registration/application) information." Al Marzouqi praised the response of motorists and the sales of 160,000 tags. "This shows the awareness of motorists on Salik's importance in reducing traffic in Dubai". He said.
WAM/MAB Motorists, who will use Sheikh Zayed Road where the toll gates are located, at Garhoud Bridge and near the Mall of the Emirates, must apply for and buy the Salik welcome kit containing the Salik windshield tag from POS in Epco/Enoc and Emarat petrol stations and Dubai Islamic Bank and Emirates Bank. The welcome kit costs 100 dhs, but only 50 dhs will be charged as fees to open the account and the rest counted as credit.
RTA reminds motorists that after subscription they will receive SMS that includes the account number and pin and even if they did not receive shortly, in both cases the tag is automatically activated.
They’re all killers - Says German Paramedic
Dubai - Jul 01: A German paramedic, forced to watch in horror as a mini-bus driver burnt to death in his vehicle this weekend, has hit out at drivers who refused to help - labelling them all killers. Expat Florian Gottschalk, a paramedic in Germany for eight years before moving to Dubai, told 7DAYS how he rushed to Emirates Road on Thursday night, at around 9pm, with two small fire extinguishers after seeing smoke from his window in Arabian Ranches.
On arrival at the scene he saw a six-seater minibus' engine had caught fire, having crashed into the back of a lorry, but too much smoke and heat was preventing people from opening the vehicle's back door. Florian recalled: “I started to extinguish the flames but the canister emptied quickly and the fire was spreading rapidly.”
When the final extinguisher ran out, Florian and two security guards who had just come off duty, turned to the scores of drivers who had slowed down to take pictures and “rubber neck”, to ask for their help and, more importantly, their car fire extinguishers. But the hospital and emergency services consultant didn't get the reaction he had hoped for.
“They just overtook us, taking pictures and then driving away”, he said incredulously. “They didn't care for this man's life. Only one man actually wound down his window but when he saw what was happening he said he had to pass.” A couple of minutes later the driver managed to open his door but trapped by the safety belt he was unable to get free.
“Eventually the belt melted and he fell out and onto the floor but we couldn't get near him,” Florian recalled sadly. The police and emergency services arrived soon after but the man died at the scene. Yesterday a leading emer-gency surgeon in Dubai told 7DAYS the story was all too familiar: “People don't know what to do in these circumstances and, not first aid trained, get scared.
“We also see many cases where the cars automatically lock in an emergency sit-uation, meaning the drivers are unable free themselves from burning vehicles. “We have tried to alert manufacturers to this but they don't pay attention.” Dubai Police confirmed one man had died in a mini-bus fire near Global Village on Thursday, saying there were no passengers in the bus and no other casualties.
“I've seen many things in my time as a paramedic but what shocked me most was people's attitudes,” Florian said. “This man died because people were more interested in looking and taking pictures than acting. To my mind, everybody who passed by that night is a killer.”
Sharjah - Helping out for summer
Sharjah - Jul 01: The Sharjah Charity Society (SCS) will from today provide food, juice and milk to thousands of labourers to help improve their lives during the summer. SCS board member Abdullah Sultan bin Khadem said 7,000 workers would be provided with the food and drink to protect them from fatal heat exhaustion.
“The humanitarian campaign, to be conducted in coordination with the Ministry of Labour, will run from July 1 to August 25,” he said. “Our convoys will visit workers at different construction sites in Sharjah to deliver medically-selected formula of juices and milk to save them from sunstroke,” he added.