Beijing launches car ban trial

Drivers in Beijing have been banned from the roads for one day each week in a trial scheme that will last for the next six months.

It is hoped the restrictions, which began this week and only apply on weekdays, will cut congestion and clean up the Chinese capital’s air.

All corporate and private cars and nearly three-quarters of government vehicles are affected by the ban, but it will not apply to emergency vehicles or public transport, including taxis.

Anyone caught flouting the new regulations will face a fine of 100 yuan (US$14.7), according to state-owned news agencies.

The scheme follows an initiative introduced during this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games which banned cars on alternate days according to their number plates (see related story).

According to the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications, the scheme will take about 800,000 cars off the road every day within the city’s major ring road, the Fifth Ring.

“It is expected to reduce Beijing’s average road traffic flow by 6.5% and speed up traffic within the Fifth Ring by 8% at least,” Wang Zhaorong, a senior official from the committee, told state media.

Beijing residents are instead being encouraged to switch to public transport to get to and from work or school.

“We will boost public transport services after the new restriction is implemented, such as prolonging operation hours of buses and subway trains and increasing their numbers,” Zhou Zhengyu, deputy head of the committee, said.

The committee said the Olympic ban on car use took nearly 2m cars off the roads, reducing congestion by an average 21.2% and cutting pollutants by about 63%.

According to government statistics, there are about 3.5m vehicles in use in the city, with about 1,200 taking to the road every day.

Kate Martin

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