Beijing sees 55km-long traffic jam as tourists flock in for May Day holiday

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 2014, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 8:39am

The long-awaited May Day holiday has arrived, but hundreds of thousands of commuters across the nation who were eager to enjoy their time off were instead stalled by heavy traffic snarls.

Massive streams of people going in and out of Beijing yesterday caused major congestion in China’s capital, as the nation kick-started the three-day public holiday.

As tourists flocked in on cars and buses, some 470,000 vehicles were recorded travelling out of Beijing on various highways yesterday morning, the Legal Evening News said, as citydwellers headed towards suburban tourist resorts, making traffic much worse than normal. 

The worst traffic jam was on the Beijing-Tibet expressway, where cars heading out of town have been stuck since Thursday morning, and the queue was a staggering 55 kilometres long, the report said.

The Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway, southwest of the capital, saw a 26-kilometre-long queue of cars. A section bound for Chengde, a popular leisure destination, had a 21-kilometre backlog.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport estimated that daily traffic capacity could top a record-breaking two million cars on all roads in the capital during the holiday.

On websites and social media, authorities constantly updated the latest traffic conditions and provided alternative routes.

Other cities fared no better. In Hangzhou, the scenic capital of coastal Zhejiang province, the subway system was packed with tourists, making the commute longer.

And in Guangdong province, eight inter-city highways were plagued by congestion, the Yangcheng Evening News reported, slowing vehicles to a crawl.

Just before labour day, the governments of 10 of the most famous tourist cities warned of possible bottlenecks in each city and urged officials to step up mitigation efforts.

In the western city of Xian, home of the Terracotta Warriors, the authority mobilised some 2,000 police officers to help control and co-ordinate the traffic.

The major congestions are partly due to a policy of the national traffic authority which exempts expressway tolls on all vehicles with seven seats or less during long holidays. 

The frequent and predictable congestion and crowding during China's holidays has even prompted the government to propose alternative holiday schemes, in which citizens cannot take holidays all at the same time, but can choose from a schedule drafted by the government.