Beijing tackles congestion

Around one million vehicles will be taken off the streets of Beijing for two weeks in a dress rehearsal for next year's Olympic Games.

The Beijing authorities want to test traffic control measures they intend to use to free up the city’s notoriously gridlocked roads during the sporting festival.

It is not clear if the city’s government will implement an official ban on private cars, or hope drivers will leave their vehicles at home and take public transport. They imposed an official ban last year during a summit meeting of Chinese and African leaders.

A Beijing road traffic management spokesman said the move would speed up traffic in the urban areas and would cause little inconvenience. He said: “Students will be staying home for the summer holiday and the working population can take public transport instead of driving.”

Traffic congestion is understood to have reached a crisis point in China’s principal city with 90% of roads operating at full capacity with little room for expansion.

The number of vehicles registered in the Beijing reached three million in May, putting enormous pressure on the city’s traffic system and environment, and it is growing at the rate of 1,000 vehicles a day.

When the Olympic Games are held in August next year, the number is expected to top 3.3 million.

The municipal government has heavily subsidised public transport and dramatically cut the average bus fare by more than 50% in a bid to persuade more private drivers to use buses and leave their cars at home.

Last November, during the summit meeting, Beijing imposed a six-day ban on at least 490,000 government vehicles and advised private drivers to take buses.

Kath Grant

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