‘Staggering’ Traffic in Qatar as Cars Exceed Highway Capacity
From the Gulf Times Qatar
By Bonnie James/Deputy News Editor
Increase in the number of vehicles beyond the carrying capacity of roads, improper driving manners of many motorists and road works are among the key factors behind the acute traffic congestion currently being experienced in Doha and suburbs, it has been pointed out.
Brigadier Mohamed Saad al-Kharji, director of the Traffic Department, was on record the other day that the number of vehicles in Qatar has exceeded 1mn.
The total number of registered vehicles in Qatar had stood at 876,039 in 2012, according to official statistics. This means, as many as 123,961 new vehicles have been added to the roads within nine months of this year, at the average rate of a 13,773 every month, whereas the 2012 average for new vehicles was only 5,138 per month.
“The increase in the number of new vehicles is staggering and at almost three times the monthly average from 2012, it now exceeds the carrying capacity of the roads of Doha and suburbs, even from a layman’s perspective,” a traffic safety expert said.
This is evident on Al Shamal Road, a vital link of the Qatar Expressway Programme and a major arterial thoroughfare, during peak hours from Sunday to Thursday. All the way from The Mall signal to the Gharrafa area, the highway is clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“The average speed on Al Shamal Road would be around 30kmh, as against the maximum allowed speed of 100kmh, and that too if there are no accidents,” observed a motorist who drives on the highway regularly.
The congestion on Al Shamal Road has gone from bad to worse ever since the reopening of schools on September 10, compared to the time before the summer vacation, asserted another resident.
“Al Shamal Road is the preferred choice of tens of thousands of motorists who have to travel to the northern parts of the country and back, but the carrying capacity of its busiest portions has been exceeded,” the expert maintained.
Though Al Shamal Road has three lanes each in either direction, they are proving thoroughly inadequate during the rush hours. “You have to go beyond the Gharrafa stretch to be able to drive at the maximum permissible speed, if proceeding to the north,” a motorist said.
Many road users also feel the traffic management strategy leaves much to be desired, especially with regard to Al Shamal Road.
“On Thursday, access from many service roads to Al Shamal Road was blocked off in a bid to ease congestion on the highway. But this led to vehicles being stuck on the service roads for up to 40 minutes,” a road user recalled.
A parent who drives his children from the Qatar Decoration area of Salwa Road to their school at Duhail, a distance of about 23km, said it took him more than one hour to reach the destination, as access to Al Shamal Road from the service road at Al Waab was blocked.
“My children were late for school the first time this academic year as we were stuck on a service road for nearly 40 minutes while vehicles were moving fast on Al Shamal Road, a rare sight these days,” he said.
Many motorists don’t use indicators or move ahead promptly when the vehicle in front moves. “It is a common sight to see people having their breakfast, putting on make up, or having animated conversations on a handheld phone, while they are behind the wheel, oblivious to the fact that they are holding up traffic and aggravating the congestion,” noted a woman who observes the road scenes from her front passenger seat.
The traffic situation on the Corniche is expected to take a turn for the worse, given that Grand Hamad Street’s intersection with Doha Corniche has been closed for 10 days from Thursday midnight.
“If I used to start from home at 6.30am before summer vacation, I leave 15 minutes early these days, but now I guess I have no option but to start even earlier,” another motorist added.
The helicopter patrol, introduced by the Traffic Department since last week, to help ease congestion on Qatar roads by giving guidance to police on the ground during morning rush hours has improved traffic flow by 30%, according to Brigadier al-Kharji.
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