Dubai taxis take the toll as Salik charge comes into effect

From today, Dubai taxi users will pay the Dh4 toll every time their cab passes a Salik toll gate.

Dubai, June 27, 2012 --  Stock photographs of cars driving through Al Safa Salik Toll Gate on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, June 27 2012. (Photo by: Sarah Dea/The National)
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DUBAI // Taxi users have begun paying a Dh4 charge for journeys passing through a Salik toll gate.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) confirmed the congestion fee came into effect today, but taxi drivers seemed confused.

“We were told it was supposed to start today, but nothing seems to be working so far,” said Behailu Feyissa, who works for Metro Taxi.

Sayyed Razim Khan, of the same company, said: “It’s not working on my meter. I had one passenger who asked me about it this morning but I told her it’s not working yet. Maybe it will start after midnight or something, I’m not sure.”

He said they had not received any information about the new system.

“What about when we don’t have a customer?” he asked. “Does it still charge us? Nobody has explained anything to us.”

Adel Shakeri, director of transportation systems at the RTA’s public transport agency, said the scheme would be phased in across the taxi fleet over the next two weeks.

Meters are being installed that automatically collect the toll when a taxi passes through the gates at Al Safa and Al Barsha on Sheikh Zayed Road and at Al Garhoud Bridge and Al Maktoum Bridge. The meters will be fitted to all 8,000 taxis in Dubai by the end of this month.

Passengers wishing to avoid the toll can ask the driver to take an alternative route, and it is hoped the move will ease traffic jams on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Taxis were exempted from Salik in 2008. Mr Shakeri said: “We faced a lot of problems then because the meters used very old technology. The Salik charge had to be added manually, but now it will be fully automated. ”

He does not expect much public resistance because the fee adds a small amount to the average fare.

“The charge will be Dh4 only and the average charge is about Dh27,” Mr Shakeri said. “And it’s optional – you can choose another route.”

When the decision to reintroduce the charge for taxis was announced last month, Eisa Abdul-Rahman Al Dosari, chief executive of the public transport agency, said: "This procedure will clearly contribute to easing the traffic flow by re-routing the vehicular movement on a number of roads and streets. It is set to ease the pressure on Sheikh Zayed Road and encourage commuters to use the Dubai Metro."

* Additional reporting by Mohammed Al Khan