Rock Trucks on Hatta Road 1969
Port Rashid's construction started around 1967. Huge amounts of rock were needed to build Port Rashid's two breakwaters. No one knew for certain where that amount of rock could be found. They thought the rock would have to be imported at high cost. Then Sheikh Rashid recalled Bedu telling him of several locations where they found it difficult to dig for water and........
Building the Road - Moving the Rock
These locations Sheikh Rashid identified were investigated. Khraj Umm Biat was found to have suitable limestone rock. Khraj Umm Biat was on the way to Hatta but there was no road. Badiyat Quarry was set up and a graded gravel road built between the Quarry and Port Rashid. Rock quarried at Badiyat was transported to Port Rashid in Foden Trucks each carrying two trays of rock weighing 20 tons each. These heavy duty trucks operated day and night for several years as Port Rashid then Dubai Dry Docks were built. Drivers had no creature comforts apart from a crudely sprung seat. Doors and windows were usually removed to help keep the driver cool. There was little traffic on this road apart from the rock trucks so they travelled at speed. Their sole objective was a fast turnaround at each end of their trip. An all up weight of over 40 tons travelling at around 80 km per hour did not stop quickly!!
Falling Rocks - Seeing the Lights - A Dangerous Road
Rocks fequently fell from these trucks as they bounced and sped down this bumpy and uneven gravel track. Trucks then ran over these rocks causing their steering arms and brake pipes, located underneath each truck, to be broken off. Invariably the damaged truck swerved uncontrollably off the road into the desert coming to a halt buried axle deep in the desert sand. Cars were not so fortunate!! Hitting one of these rocks caused serious damage to the car and, on occasions, injury or worse to the occupants.
Traffic lights were another hazard. Quarry Access Road, which led to Port Rashid, intersected with Al Mina Street, the main road into Jumierah. Port Rashid's Building Contractor installed Traffic Lights to control this intersebtion. Drivers controlled trucks weighing over 40 tons travelling at 80 km/hr with poor brakes so deciding whether to stop at these traffic lights or not was usually made well before reaching the lights. Sometimes the drivers made misjudgements and drove through a red light at speed. Sometimes they would get away with their misjudgement - sometimes not and usually that was when tragedies happened
Solving a Problem - Almost!!
David Johnson worked on the design of this road in 1966-70. He explains how the Dangerous Intersection problem was overcome - well almost!
I worked on the Quarry Access Road from the very beginning. I saw it complete, then broken up then complete again. This cycle of events seemed to go on until I went home in June 1970. After that I lost touch. When I came back to Dubai in 1981, the Quarry Access Road was part of a super highway going to Hatta. I remember the traffic lights so well! There were sensors buried in the asphalt which put the lights to green as the Rock Trucks approached. This meant they never had to slow down and could continue at 80kmph across the intersection with Al Mina Street. In the beginning there were fatalities. Dubai's Taxi Drivers did not understand how traffic lights worked. They tried to compete with the Rock Trucks, most of which were carrying 40 tons of rock on two rock trays. The regular dump trucks carried only 20 tons. Taxis had to be scraped off from underneath the Foden Trucks.
and not just Taxi Drivers
Over time the Quarry Access Road was upgraded into a main road used by both rock trucks and regular traffic. Traffic Accidents continued at this intersection until the Rock Trucks were no longer operating. But the danger did not disappear. By 1976 heavily laden container trucks were using the same road with similar results. The environmental threat posed by increasing heavy traffic using Port Rashid was a contributory factor in Port Rashid's eventual closure in 2008.