Beijing wants to keep 1m cars off the road during Games
Ng Tze Wei
Authorities intend to keep about a million cars off the road during next year's Olympics to ensure the capital's chronic traffic problems will not affect the Games.
'Beijing's traffic congestion is a recurrent problem, and it is giving us a headache,' said Liu Xiaoming , deputy director of Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications, at a news briefing yesterday hosted by Bocog.
But Mr Liu said he was confident that 'Beijing's traffic will be able to support a special Olympics'.
While traffic arrangements are still under discussion, Mr Liu said restrictions were expected to apply to government vehicles with high emissions. The city would also provide free public transport for Olympics participants, volunteers and ticket-holders, and introduce designated public transport routes and strict parking controls around venues.
Mr Liu said the Sino-African Summit held in Beijing in October, when 70 per cent of government vehicles were banned and private motorists encouraged to stay off the roads, showed the city had the ability to manage the traffic. It lasted two weekend days but the Games would span more than two weeks.
He said Beijing would also learn from other former host cities, like Seoul, where vehicles were allowed on alternate days depending on whether they had an odd or even number.
The Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games estimates the city will have 3.3 million cars on the road by next summer, and authorities hope to reduce that by 20 to 30 per cent during the Games.
Beijing registered 370,000 new cars last year, the biggest number in the country. Since the start of this year, the number of new vehicles has risen by 1,060 a day. There are 2.97 million cars on the road in Beijing, and the figure is expected to reach the 3 million in May. 'To fundamentally solve the problem, we still need time because of the huge pressure we face,' Mr Liu said.
Over the past three years, Mr Liu said that the city had stabilised the problem mainly by promoting public transport through, for example, network expansion and fare reductions.
He ruled out restricting the number of private cars through measures like auctioning licence plates. But new measures regarding parking spaces and fees in the city centre would be announced later this year.