Beijing’s new traffic rules take 800,000 cars off roads

October 13th, 2008 - 10:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Oct 13 (Xinhua) Around 800,000 cars in Beijing were off the roads Monday as new traffic rules came into force in the city. The new measure would help reduce pollution, officials said.Under the new law, 70 percent of government vehicles, as well as all corporate and private cars, will take turns off the roads one out of the five weekdays as of last Saturday, the Beijing Municipal Committee announced.

During the Olympics and Paralympics, Beijing had imposed a two-month ban on vehicles on alternate days, which took nearly two million cars off the roads.

The measure helped reduce almost 120,000 tonnes of pollutants emitted by vehicles. But the city returned to its usual traffic jams after the ban was lifted Sep 21.

Last month, over 400,000 Beijing residents had participated in an online discussion forum on whether to keep the ban. Nearly half of them supported the ban, while others, mostly car owners, opposed.

Cars with number plates ending one or six will be off the roads on Mondays, while those ending with two or seven on Tuesdays, three or eight on Wednesdays, four or nine Thursdays and five or zero Fridays. The ban does not apply on weekends.

Despite reduction of traffic Monday, some major roads in the downtown areas had witnessed traffic jams during the rush hours.

“We cannot expect the new measure to produce good results instantly. It will be a long-term task to improve the traffic condition,” an official said.

The new law is being implemented on a trial basis for six months until April 10, 2009. However, it will not apply to police vehicles, ambulances, fire engines, buses, taxis and other public service vehicles.

The ban is expected to maintain the smooth traffic and good air quality achieved during the Olympic Games. The new restriction is expected to take some 800,000 cars off the roads daily, officials said.

Authorities are also encouraging employers to adjust to more flexible working hours and even working from home, to ease the traffic congestion.

Downtown department stores have been advised to open at 10 a.m. instead of 9 and close one hour later then the usual timings.

Zhou Zhengyu, deputy head of Beijing Municipal Committee, said traffic authorities would improve the public transport services after the new measure is fully operationalised.

This included extending operating hours of buses and subway trains, increasing their numbers and building more subway lines.

“Currently, Beijing has 200 km subway lines. The length will be extended to 300 km by 2010, and to 561 km by 2015,” he said.

According to the latest government estimate, Beijing has around 3.5 million vehicles in addition to around 1,200 new vehicles that hit the roads daily.

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