Dubai to consider flexible Salik toll charges to cut congestion

Roads and Transport Authority says varying charges depending on location and congestion levels could improve traffic tariff system

Dubai, U.A.E., October 23, 2018.   The new Salik gate located before the intersection of Yalayis Street along Sheikh Zayed Road.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
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Transport authorities in Dubai will consider introducing flexible road tolls in a further effort to cut congestion.

The emirate's Roads and Transport Authority said variable charges – often referred to as dynamic pricing – could "increase the effectiveness of the traffic toll system".

Such pricing strategies typically involve motorists paying higher toll charges during peak hours, to encourage driving at less busy periods when possible.

Tariffs could also be adjusted depending on traffic conditions, the number of people in each vehicle and the type of model being driven, one expert said.

The authority announced on Friday it would launch two new Salik toll gates by November, taking the total number to 10.

Currently, motorists are charged Dh4 ($1) to pass through each gate and the amount is deducted automatically from the driver's Salik account.

"To enhance the effectiveness of the traffic tariff system and achieve the goals related to reducing congestion and redistributing traffic flow, the flexible tariff that varies according to gate locations and congestion levels is considered one of the future solutions," the RTA said on X.

"Its implementation depends on the results of the transportation strategy carried out by the authority. Thank you for your understanding and continuous co-operation with us."

Salik toll gates - in pictures

It provided details of its traffic-busting plans in a message on X on Monday morning, in response to a query from prominent Emirati lawyer, Dr Habib Al Mulla, over the effectiveness of the emirate's road toll strategy.

Dr Al Mulla, also on X, called for the introduction of a dynamic toll system in which "fees increase during peak hours and decrease during less congested times".

"Implementing variable fees based on congestion levels achieves greater fairness for road users, as opposed to a fixed fee throughout the day, even when the road is less crowded," he wrote.

Salik Company was directed by the RTA to install the new toll gates, which will be positioned at the Business Bay Crossing on Al Khail Road and in Al Safa South on Sheikh Zayed Road, between Al Meydan Street and Umm Al Sheif Street.

Authorities said these locations had been chosen following extensive traffic studies in an effort to reduce congestion.

In September 2022, Salik said it had plans to establish dynamic pricing at its toll gates to increase revenue and reduce congestion.

Andre Martins, head of transport, infrastructure and services for India, Middle East and Africa at Oliver Wyman, said such toll initiatives usually involved users paying higher road fees during peak hours and lower rates at other times.

“The idea is to help change behaviours and incentivise people to use the roads during less congested hours,” Mr Martins told The National previously.

Ultimately, the aim is to minimise congestion, manage traffic, reduce travel times, decrease carbon dioxide emissions and convince people to use alternative routes and modes of transport, he said.

Dubai, which expects the population to nearly double in the next 20 years, is seeking ways to mitigate the accompanying traffic increase.

It is hoped the expanding the number of toll gates and adopting dynamic pricing will help alleviate congestion and encourage more use of public transport.

“People will tend to complain a bit in the beginning because it is new, but over time they will understand how it works, and the pricing will help change behaviour,” Mr Martins said.

How have other cities used it?

Major cities such as London, Stockholm and Singapore have successfully introduced the dynamic pricing system, Mr Martins said.

Singapore recorded a 24 per cent reduction in traffic and Stockholm registered a 20 per cent decrease in congestion by adopting the system, which helped daily commuters, he said.

Neighbouring Abu Dhabi also introduced its own road toll system – known as Darb – in January 2021.

It charges motorists during the peak morning hours of 7am to 9am and again from 5pm to 7pm.

The tolls are active from Monday to Saturday, with charges waived on Sundays and public holidays.

Updated: January 22, 2024, 9:48 AM