Rerouting utilities is another hurdle for Salam Street project

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi - February 8th, 2009:  Construction works dig a ditch to burry new electrical lines in a block near Abu Dhabi Mall.  (Galen Clarke/The National) for story by Tom Spender *** Local Caption ***  GC01_02082009_Construction.jpg
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ABU DHABI // Upgrades to the electricity network in the Tourist Club area are adding to the problems of residents and shop owners struggling with the closure of Salam Street. Side streets are being dug up so urgent improvements can be made to the local power network, including the construction of a new substation. People who use the area say they understand the work is necessary, but complain it has made it very difficult to conduct business or park.

The Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC), which is in charge of the work, says the project is vital to prevent power cuts during the summer, when people crank up their air conditioning units. "Many new buildings have been built in the Tourist Club over the past few years but the area is still supplied by substations in other parts of Abu Dhabi," said NS Pillai, an engineer with PB Power, the ADDC's consultant for the project.

"This is very high priority work. If it's not finished there will be big problems this summer for the supply of electricity. The new substation will take on the burden from other substations in Abu Dhabi, which are already overloaded." Tens of power cables will be routed to local buildings from the new, four-storey substation. It will also supply power to nearby Reem Island, where many high-rise buildings are under construction.

Residents and shop owners also said they had not been given any notice the work would begin. "No one told us," said Ali bin Esa Babsail, owner of Al Badira stationery shop. "It causes a problem of access for our customers, but we understand it's for the betterment of the whole city." Hatem Awad, food and beverages manager at Kingsgate Hotel, said the construction was especially causing chaos in the evenings, as residents returning from work and hotel guests arriving for functions compete for parking spaces.

And Rabia, 29, the owner of the New Street Cafe, said he hoped to be compensated for lost business. "People can still walk in but there's nowhere for customers to park and my business has suffered a bit, but maybe I will be paid some compensation," he said. The Tourist Club construction is scheduled to be completed in March, according to Mr Pillai. Workers will then start making improvements to the substation behind the Lulu supermarket on Corniche Road and the Madinat Zayed shopping area.

"There is much work to be done in many parts of the city but the police will only allow us to work in one place at a time to avoid too much disruption," Mr Pillai said. The major roadworks on Salam Street are expected to take two years.