Abu Dhabi's new road toll scheme will be introduced early the new year.
Drivers entering Abu Dhabi island will face charges from January 2 as part of a government effort to reduce congestion and encourage more people to use public transport.
Four new toll gates – positioned at bridges in Abu Dhabi – were due to be activated on October 15.
That launch date was put back until the start of 2020 by the Department of Transport, to allow commuters more time to prepare for the emirate’s first road charging scheme.
Some residents said a problem with a text message confirmation system meant that they could not complete the registration process.
The date isn’t the only aspect of the initiative to have changed, however.
With only days to go until the charges are implemented, here is a handy guide to signing up, charges, eligibility and how to avoid being hit with fines.
What are the new road charges?
The new tolls are a cashless system similar to the Salik system in Dubai, in which drivers are charged every time they travel through a designated gate.
Where are the gates located?
Four toll gates are located on all bridges to Abu Dhabi island – Saadiyat, Maqta, Mussaffah and Sheikh Khalifa bridges.
How much will it cost?
Transport chiefs have re-evaluated their pricing strategy. Initially, it was stated that drivers would be charged Dh4 during peak periods and Dh2 outside those times, as well as on Fridays and public holidays.
On Sunday, however, it was revealed that drivers will only be charged during rush hour.
A Dh4 charge will be levied each time a car passes through one of the designated toll gates between 7am and 9am, and from 5pm to 7pm.
Charges will now be waived on Fridays and public holidays, while travel through the gates will be free outside of the peak periods mentioned above.
The fees are capped at Dh16 per day and Dh200 per month. The monthly cap on a family’s second vehicle is Dh150 and Dh100 if they have a third.
How do I register?
Drivers can sign up for the scheme on a dedicated website, having their Emirates ID and licence plate details at hand. The Integrated Transport Centre has created free accounts for all people with cars registered within Abu Dhabi.
Motorists will have received text messages containing their account details, which must be used to activate the account. Anyone who has deleted or lost his or her text message can contact ITC's Call Centre on 800 88888.
As for vehicles registered outside the emirate, motorists must log on to the same website to complete their registration, and pay a Dh100 registration fee, which includes a Dh50 credit balance.
Motorists can manage their credit balance through their account, topping up with cash whenever needed.
Can I be fined if I don't register?
Failing to register could prove very costly, with fines of up to Dh10,000 for flouting regulations.
Motorists who pass through a toll gate without registering their vehicle have a 10-day grace period in which to add themselves to the database. If they do not do so, they will be fined Dh100 for their first offence, with the penalty rising to Dh200 for the second breach and Dh400 for the third, up to that maximum five-figure fine.
What other violations are there?
For vehicles registered outside Abu Dhabi, crossing a tollgate without a sufficient balance will incur a Dh50 fine if not paid within five days.
Tampering with the licence plate of the vehicle for the purpose of evading payment of the toll will attract a hefty Dh10,000 fine.
Why are the tolls being introduced?
Transport chiefs believe the move will cut congestion by six per cent during peak times and encourage people to use public transport. It is also hoped the measure will encourage carpooling and modes of transport with lower environmental impacts. The ITC said it purchased more than 320 buses to give commuters more alternatives to private transport and increased the number of buses connecting suburbs with the city.
Are there any exemptions?
Senior or retired Emiratis, and Emiratis who are retired or have a limited income and people with disabilities – known as ‘people of determination’ in the Emirates – are all exempt from paying the road fees.
Those eligible can apply for an exemption by visiting an ITC customer happiness centre and presenting their Emirates ID, vehicle registration card and other necessary documentation.
Individual exemptions are limited to one vehicle only, are valid for one year and may be renewed according to the terms and regulations set by the ITC.
The ITC stated that vehicles exempt from toll fees will include taxis licensed in Abu Dhabi, towed vehicles, public buses, school buses registered in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, public buses with 26 seats or more, electric vehicles, Abu Dhabi Police vehicles, Ministry of Interior vehicles, ambulances, Armed Forces vehicles, Civil Defence vehicles and motorbikes.