Abu Dhabi road tolls: everything you need to know before January 2 launch

Abu Dhabi's new road toll scheme will finally be rolled out in 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 initially 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 they could not complete the registration process. The date isn't the only thing that has changed about the initiative, however.

With just days to go until the charges are implemented, here is a handy guide to how to sign up, how much you will pay, who is eligible 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 point.

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 performed somewhat of a U-turn on their pricing strategy. Initially, it was stated that drivers would be charged Dh4 during peak periods and Dh2 outside of 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 7-9am and 5-7pm.

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 license plate details to hand.

The Integrated Transport Centre (ITC) has created free accounts for all people with cars registered within Abu Dhabi. Drivers will have received an SMS with their account details, to be used to activate the account. In case the SMS is lost, the public can contact ITC's Call Centre on 80088888.

As for vehicles registered outside the emirate, motorists must log onto the same website to complete their registration, and pay a Dh100 registration fee, which includes a Dh50 credit balance. Motorists manage their credit balance through their account, topping up with cash whenever needed.

Road tariffs will be charged at four toll gates placed in Abu Dhabi from the start of 2020.    

Can I be fined if I don't register?

Failing to register in the new toll scheme 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 ten-day grace period to add themselves to the database.

If they do not do so, they will be hit by a Dh100 fine for their first offence, with the penalty rising to Dh200 for the second violation and Dh400 for the third, up to that maximum five-figure fine.

What other violations are there?

For vehicles registered outside of Abu Dhabi, crossing a tollgate without sufficient balance will incur a Dh50 fine, per day, if not paid within five days. Drivers of cars registered within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi can pay any fines for failing to have sufficient credit time of renewal of the vehicle Tampering with the license plate of the vehicle for the purpose of evading payment of the toll comes with a hefty Dh10,000 fine, as does tampering with electronic payment devices.

Why are the tolls being introduced?

Transport chiefs believe the move will cut congestion by six per cent during peak times and spur people to use public transport.

It is also hoped to encourage people to carpooling and alternative modes of transport that are better for the environment. The ITC said it has purchased more than 320 new buses to give commuters more alternatives to private transport and increased the number of buses connecting the suburbs with the city.

Are there any exemptions?

Senior Emiratis and Emiratis who are retired or of 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 also stated that taxis licenced in Abu Dhabi, towed vehicles, public buses, school buses registered in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, public buses with 26-seaters or more, electric vehicles, Abu Dhabi Police vehicles, Ministry of Interior vehicles, ambulances, Armed Forces vehicles, Civil Defence vehicles and motorbikes will all be exempted from paying the toll fees.

Updated: December 23, 2019 01:05 PM

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