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Truckers' refuge shelved

PLANS to create a special refuge for truckers on the Bahrain side of King Fahad Causeway have been temporarily put on hold.

The area, based on the one already operating on the Saudi Arabian side of the bridge linking both countries, would give them a proper place to park, rest and eat.

However, due to unavailability of land, the project has been halted until further notice, said causeway authority general manager Bader Abdulla Al Otaishan.

"The plan for land to accommodate truckers on the Bahrain side had to be halted until we find a suitable site," he told the GDN.

Mr Al Otaishan stressed that the truck-stop on the Saudi side had helped reduce the number of trucks passing through the causeway daily.

A total of around 39,000 trucks travelled through the causeway in April last year, compared to around 33,000 trucks at the same period this year.

"The stop allows truckers to wait for their turn to enter the causeway, effectively decreasing the number of trucks waiting," said Mr Al Otaishan.

"They are given tickets that allow them on to the causeway on certain days at set times."

The Saudi truck-stop, costing around BD700,000, can accommodate 600 trucks and features services such as a mosque, toilet facilities, restrooms, dining facilities and a Customs and traffic police office.

The decision to build the truck-stops was made due to the increasing number of trucks queuing on both sides.

Truckers race to get across the causeway before the cement quota runs out, leading to huge queues.

The weekly quota, imposed by Saudi Arabia in June 2008, allows only 10,000 tonnes of cement to be exported through the causeway, while 15,000 tonnes is exported via King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam.

Cement truck drivers are given tickets that allow them access to the causeway on certain days and at set times, to help prevent traffic jams and only 400 loaded trucks cover the weekly quota.

The transport of sand through the causeway was also banned last October, meaning the absence of 200 trucks a day.

Truck lanes have also been expanded on both sides of the causeway, to speed up the flow through the checkpoints.

The project, costing an estimated BD1.8m, envisages an increase in truck lanes from Saudi to Bahrain from two to five.

From Bahrain to Saudi, lanes will be increased from two to four.

An x-ray machine was also installed on the Saudi side to speed up security checks.

Drivers have earlier claimed they were routinely humiliated on the highways of Saudi Arabia, bullied by Saudi police and Customs officers and sometimes spent nights behind bars because officials had not updated their records.

They said they were regularly chased out of neighbourhoods when they tried to park or fined by police and forced to go days without using the toilet - waiting until nightfall to find a deserted area in the open to urinate.

This was in addition to having to sleep rough for weeks and waiting in queues of up to 10km to get on the causeway, often in high temperatures.

basma@gdn.com.bh



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