Beijing braces for worst traffic jams as pre-holiday crowds surge

Severe jams are expected to last till 11pm as pre-holiday crowds surge, authorities say

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2012, 3:49am

Beijing media reported on Monday that the capital's traffic congestion had hit a new record. They did the same on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the municipal transport commission said average speeds had dropped to 20km/h.

It was even worse yesterday, and further deterioration is expected today, ahead of the Mid-Autumn Festival and the October 1 National Day "golden week" holidays next week.

The authorities said the worst congestion before the golden week holiday was likely to be experienced today because all vehicles would be allowed on the roads.

Congestion downtown was expected to start after lunch and last until 11pm, Beijing's traffic radio channel reported yesterday.

On weekdays, cars are allowed on the roads on alternating days, depending on whether their licence plates end in odd or even numbers.

According to the official traffic performance index - which measures congestion on a scale of zero (smooth) to 10 (snarled) - congestion in the city centre rose above nine at one stage yesterday, China National Radio reported.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a popular time for gift-giving to reinforce connections, and that was probably to blame for the traffic congestion, China National Radio quoted Mao Baohua, a transport specialist from Beijing Jiaotong University as saying.

"We've been seeing for years, cars from all over the country heading to Beijing several days before the Mid-Autumn Festival and Spring Festival," said Liu Can, a Beijing-based lawyer.

"Businessmen come to visit departments of industry and commerce; lawyers to visit clients and prosecutors; bankers and developers to visit various ministries, and subordinates to visit directors," he said.

"Everyone is a giver … We are all wasting money and time when driving on roads with gifts."