I can see bloggers' keyboards melting down today: the news that two new Salik gates are to be installed is virtually guaranteed to get 'em going. Well, it's certainly done the trick for this one, as you can see!
The news comes on a busy front page for Gulf News, which is more than usually lively. Kylie's 40, Suu Kyi's shameful detention is to continue, a new Bond novel has been written by Sebastian Faulks (and launched with a bonkers, brilliant, publicity stunt), Bahrain has decided to stop issuing work permits to all Bangladeshis following the murder of a Bahraini by a gentleman of that nationality and a Dubai nightclub is to operate a 'you're in if we like the look of you' door policy (and the difference is...).
What larks, Pip!
But it's still Salik that tickles me pinkest. The new gates are part of the second phase of the Salik system, Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) boss and 'traffic expert' Matar Al Tayer told Gulf News and anyone else who happened to be listening. This is the very second phase that Al Tayer dissembled about when asked about future plans by media back in January: a second phase that clearly had always included more toll gates. Why on earth the RTA cannot clearly and simply communicate what it is planning is beyond me.
One of the new gates is an additional gate on the Sheikh Zayed road, while the other one will add a charge for the Al Maktoum Bridge: the bridge that most people use to avoid the Al Garhoud Bridge Salik gate. Having effectively forced traffic onto Maktoum, the RTA now notes that Maktoum is busy. They really are clever little bears.
Part of the announcement appears to be the undertaking that motorists will be charged only once for passing through the two successive gates on the Sheikh Zayed Road. I'll be interested to see how they implement that one. Will you have a time limit to cross the two gates for no additional charge? And what happens if there's a crash and you're held up?
Gulf News reports that the reason for the second gate on the Sheikh Zayed road is that people have been driving around the original gate, another piece of human behaviour that has apparently surprised the RTA. The new gate is, we are told, "the only solution" to the problem. Although an alternative solution would be to resite the Barsha gate, no?
There are more gates on the way, for sure. Except the RTA absolutely refuses to be transparent (let alone consultative) about its plans and our media appear unwilling to get to the facts. One journalist I know who chatted to Al Tayer following an interview some time ago says he was told off the record that it was Al Tayer's goal to increase the cost of car ownership in Dubai to Dhs 10,000 a year. If it's true, that surely needs to go on the record.
I suppose I'd better do a Salik Talking T-Shirt now...