Huge traffic delays as Saudi Arabia-Bahrain bridge hosts record crossings

On Saturday, more than 136,000 passengers crossed the King Fahd causeway, the most recorded since the bridge opened in 1986

At least 361,345 passengers have crossed the King Fahd causeway since last weekend
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There has been an unprecedented congestion on the causeway linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain since the weekend.

On Saturday, more than 136,498 passengers crossed the King Fahd causeway, the most recorded since the bridge linking the two kingdoms first opened in 1986.

Saudi authorities had to temporarily close several border gates for the first time in 36 years with many passengers facing up to ten hours in traffic.

The congestion since Sunday coincided with the beginning of the spring break holidays in Saudi Arabia.

At least 361,345 passengers crossed the border from Saudi Arabia into Bahrain since the weekend.

The traffic jam caused so many difficulties from the Saudi side that authorities were forced to close nine customs cabins.

The bridge bears considerable economic importance for both countries, particularly for their tourism and logistics sectors.

The King Fahd Causeway Authority announced on Monday it was starting expansion and maintenance works to increase capacity and improve the experience of passengers crossing the bridge in several stages.

Work on the first stage will be completed within three months, while the rest of the expansion projects are expected to be completed within the year.

“The authority apologises for any disruption or lack of flow of traffic during the implementation of the project work,” the King Fahd Causeway Authority said.

Bahraini residents said their usual commute back to Bahrain from their work office in the Eastern Province and Dhahran, which would normally take an hour, took almost nine hours to complete.

“I left work on Monday at around 4.30pm and reached the Saudi point of the King Fahd causeway at around 5pm,” Amin Shirazi, a Bahraini resident who works in Dhahran city, told The National.

“It usually takes an hour to reach my home in Bahrain after passing through the insurance and security checkpoints of the bridge but I realised I was in it for the long haul after the four-hour mark stuck in traffic.”

Saudi citizens and residents are expected to go to Bahrain amid the spring break holidays as well as during Ramadan as Bahrain has a lower VAT of 10 per cent versus Saudi Arabia’s 15 per cent.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior sent out SMS urging motorists to be patient during bottleneck traffic at the bridge.

“Respecting other cultures contributes to a positive image of Saudi society and promotes rapprochement and understanding with them,” the SMS stated.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Bahrain welcomed about 11 million tourists with more than 88 per cent coming through the causeway.

The King Fahd Causeway was opened in 1986 and is one of the busiest land border crossings in the Middle East.

An estimated 390 million passengers have used the bridge since its opening.

Updated: March 08, 2023, 11:00 AM