Guangzhou moved a step closer yesterday to banning non-local cars from entering the city in rush hours.
Most citizen groups at a public hearing agreed to proposed restrictions, but some businesspeople in the Pearl River Delta say it could seriously affect the region's economic integration and development.
The draft measures, released by the Guangzhou Municipal Transport Commission, aim to ease traffic congestion. Cars that are not registered locally would be barred from entering downtown areas and using main roads between 7am and 9am and 5pm and 7pm from Monday to Friday.
In addition, non-local cars would be banned from key roads linking Guangzhou to neighbouring cities, such as Foshan and Dongguan , from 7am to 7pm on working days.
Drivers would face a fine of 200 yuan (HK$250) for violating the rules and receive three points on their licence. A driver's licence is suspended if he or she racks up 12 points in a year.
Some vehicles, including those licensed in Hong Kong and Macau, and those used by foreign consulates would be exempt from the restrictions.
At a public hearing yesterday, 14 of 15 groups present, most of which represent Guangzhou citizens, backed the proposals. No timetable for introducing a ban was put forward.
Some businesspeople criticised the restrictions.
"It sounds like Guangzhou has set up an exclusive barrier for local and non-local people and enterprises," said Li Zhiguang, owner of a Guangdong-based clothing enterprise, "I am 100 per cent against the draft because it would impact on the operation of my business. My company's headquarters is in Guangzhou and [I have] a factory in Dongguan, let alone dozens of outlets across the province."
Liang Zhongqun, a sales manager, said: "I live in Foshan and drive to work in Guangzhou every day. The policy is so unfair to tens of thousands of people like me."
Officials see the move as an answer to worsening traffic jams in Guangzhou. Average speeds during rush hours have slowed to 20km/h in downtown areas, local media reported. Growing vehicle emissions have also worsened the city's air quality.
In July, the Guangzhou government began limiting registrations of new cars on a trial basis, allowing only 120,000 in a year, or 10,000 a month.
Registration plates are distributed through a lottery and a public auction.
About 17,000 Guangzhou residents refused to take part in the auction and instead licence plates from Foshan in order to drive in Guangzhou.
The Guangzhou authorities say this goes against regulations, the Guangzhou Daily reports.