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356,473 people enter Bahrain in one week.

Summary: More than 85% of the travellers use King Fahad Causeway

Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: More than 85 per cent of the people who entered Bahrain this week used the King Fahad Causeway, which links the island kingdom to Saudi Arabia.

The Assistant Undersecretary for Ports, Search and Follow-up at the General Directorate of Nationality, Passports & Residence on Thursday said 356,473 people had entered Bahrain on March 10-16.

He added that 303,840 arrived from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries via King Fahad Causeway, representing 85.23 per cent of the total arrivals.

The others arrived through Bahrain International Airport (47,914, or 13.44 per cent) and through seaports (4,719, or 1.43 per cent).

The 25-kilometre King Fahad Causeway, the first man-made terrestrial link between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, opened on November 26, 1986. Since then, it has been used by millions of travellers and vehicles, making it one of the busiest traffic areas in the Arab world.

The pressure on the causeway has often prompted Saudis to call for an acceleration of an announced process to set up new ID check booths to help deal with the increasingly high number of vehicles.

Last Friday was an extremely busy day for customs and police as it marked the start of the midyear school holidays, an occasion often used by Saudis to travel to neighbouring countries, mainly Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE.

"We need to have more booths as soon as possible in order to handle the high number of cars using the causeway on special occasions," Saudis were quoted as saying. "Most of the passengers are women and children and they should not be made to wait for long periods of time."

The vehicles were mainly from the Eastern Province, but there were also passengers from the Riyadh area, around 400 kilometres to the west of Bahrain.

During school holidays, Saudis from the capital and other areas tend to travel to Dammam and Khobar, the largest cities in the Eastern Province, and spend days in neighbouring Bahrain.

Last Thursday, one day before the start of the holidays, Bahrain's Assistant Undersecretary for Ports, Search and Follow-up at the General Directorate of Nationality, Passports and Residence said 276,859 people had entered Bahrain on March 3-9 and that 231,213 arrived from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries via King Fahad Causeway.

The record entry via the causeway for one day was achieved on September 27 last year when 105,182 people queued up. The day coincided with the celebrations of the Eid holidays.

According to official figures, 281,755,297 people have used the causeway, from the day it opened in 1986 until the end of 2014 - that's an average of 26,618 travellers a day.

The number of vehicles for the same period was 112,863,043, representing an average of 10,663 a day.

In 2014, Saudi cars totalled 3,546,557, compared with 1,058,279 from Bahrain, while 197,135 cars were from other countries.

However, the numbers of passengers from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were almost equal, with 11,015,552 travellers from Bahrain and 11,335,525 from Saudi Arabia.

Around 5,000 employees work in three shifts on the link.

Drivers who use the causeway pay a BD2.5 (Dh24.36) or a SR25 (Dh24.48) fee, but no charges are imposed on passengers, regardless of their numbers.

Authorities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have issued statements about increasing the number of lanes for cars, busses and trucks to help deal with traffic congestion, particularly during the weekends and holidays.

Several Saudi Arabia-based nationals and foreigners who work or study in Bahrain commute daily while a large number of Bahrain-based expatriates and Bahrainis use the causeway daily to go to their work or universities.

Strong family links between Gulf citizens are a significant factor in the exchange of visits over the causeway.

Movie theatres screening the latest movies and shopping complexes are considered among the top reasons for trips by Saudi families or Saudi Arabia-based foreigners to Manama.

The causeway is also used by trucks, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, heading towards Bahrain to deliver or load products.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Mar 18, 2016
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