Experts have said that the introduction of road tolls in Abu Dhabi will help ease traffic on popular roads and improve infrastructure, but will also impact those on lower incomes.
A law issued by President Sheikh Khalifa on Sunday stipulated that the capital is to implement a tariff on certain roads, the details of which are yet to be determined by the Department of Transport.
According to Robert Hodges, the previous head of Emirates Driving Institute, a major driving instruction school, said tolls are a way for GCC governments to generate revenue streams. “In areas outside of the European Union," he said, "governments are more inclined to use tolls as a means of increasing revenue streams for governments or authorities in order to help balance the nation's finances, especially in the GCC.”
Mr Hodges also said that he expects the new tolls in Abu Dhabi to start at Dh4, which is equal with Dubai's 'Salik', but that eventually the price will rise.
“I would expect the [toll gates] to be ... Dh4 a gate, as in Dubai, and then to rise over a period of time to a higher figure, possibly to Dh10, as such tolls become understood and accepted.”
However, Mr Hodges said tolls tend to hit lower-income commuters harder than the richer parts of society who can easily afford the costs and that they should only be introduced after public transport has been improved.
“Unfortunately, lower paid people tend to have to commute longer distances each day to and from work and tolls act as a form of direct expenditure that impacts on their disposable capital.
“In good road planning, the creation of road taxes should come after reliable alternative transport modes have been made available to the lower-paid workers, such as light trains, metros, trams, quality buses, park and ride sites and ride-share lanes. Otherwise road tolls are just ineffective at anything other than collecting revenue.”
Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of Road Safety UAE, said that road tolls were an effective way to combat the problems thrown up by congestion.
He said: “Traffic congestion is an inconvenience to road users. It incurs a cost to society and increases the chances of misbehaviour in motorists – we have a tendency to misbehave when we get cornered.”
Road tolls, used to channel traffic away from roads with heavy frequency to those with less frequency to smooth the overall flow of traffic, are, said Mr Edelmann, “a fair way to charge motorists for infrastructure use."
"The more an individual drives on roads, the more of they pay road tolls. The funds raised can then be used to maintain roads and finance further extension of existing road infrastructure, which results in better and safer roads.”
In the United Kingdom, the Congestion Charge is paid by motorists who enter central London during set times, which limits congestion, pollution and pushes people to use public transport.
Motorists in the UK also pay a vehicle exercise duty, or road tax, to maintain the roads, reduce pollution and improve street lighting.
The electronic toll system Salik in Dubai, which was introduced in July 2007, is cashless and involves a tag that automatically charges a car when it enters a toll road. Motorists who cross a toll, but do not pay the fee can face fines in Abu Dhabi of upto Dh10,000.
A number of countries in Europe also introduced road tolls to improve their infrastructure and ease traffic, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain.