The global economy may be experiencing a downturn, but the service stations on the highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi have never had it so good. The road between the two emirates used to be a quiet drive, but this year it has become a major commuter route as people living in Dubai head south every day to Abu Dhabi for work.

The service stations have witnessed a spike in demand as each morning and evening cars form long queues while they wait to fill up with petrol.

The transformation began late last year when Dubai’s real estate projects began to stall. Since then, construction companies have focused their efforts on Abu Dhabi, where developers still have access to the funds they need to keep moving ahead with new projects.

So far this year, 59 per cent of the $10bn worth of contract awards made in the UAE have been in Abu Dhabi. The percentage will be even larger next year as Abu Dhabi awards the raft of multi-billion-dollar projects it has tendered.

As more people from Dubai travel down to Abu Dhabi to work on these projects, the traffic will get worse. The opening of Saadiyat Bridge on 14 October will ease the congestion as traffic approaches Abu Dhabi Island but, if the trend continues for much longer, and Abu Dhabi extends its economic lead over Dubai, the authorities will have to come to terms with the changing patterns of usage for the UAE’s infrastructure.