Labour Day marred for motorists with millions stuck in jams up to 55km long

Lines of barely moving vehicles extended up to 55 kilometres on highways in Beijing, Guangdong and Xian as millions tried to reach vacation spots

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 3:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 11:09am

There was little to celebrate if you were among the hundreds of thousands of commuters across the nation ensnared in traffic jams during the long-awaited Labour Day holiday.

Beijing, a commuter nightmare on regular workdays, witnessed heavily congested traffic at the start of the three-day national "golden week" holiday yesterday, as in-bound and out-bound motorists shifted into vacation mode.

The bumper-to-bumper traffic was being blamed in part on a national traffic authority regulation that exempts vehicles with seven seats or less from paying expressway tolls during long national holidays.

Holidaymakers in cars and buses fled the capital in droves, with some 470,000 vehicles recorded travelling out of Beijing on various highways as of yesterday morning, the Legal Evening News reported. Residents fanned out to resort areas on the outskirts of the sprawling municipality and points beyond.

The nation's worst traffic conditions were reported on the Beijing-Tibet expressway, where vehicles streaming out of the municipality had slowed to a crawl from Wednesday morning. The idling vehicles formed a 55-kilometre-long queue, the report said.

Meanwhile, a 26-kilometre line of cars and buses clogged the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway southwest of the capital. An artery that carries motorists bound for Chengde, a popular leisure destination, was backed up for 21 kilometres.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport estimated that the daily traffic volume could top a two-million-vehicle record for the capital's roads during a holiday.

Other cities faced similar bottlenecks on roads and on mass transit. In Hangzhou, the scenic capital of Zhejiang province, the subway system laboured under the weight of added passengers, with journeys taking longer than usual.

In Guangdong, traffic inched along eight major intercity arteries, the Yangcheng Evening News reported.

In Xian, authorities mobilised 2,000 police officers to control and co-ordinate the flow of traffic.

Heavy traffic was only the first of the holiday's headaches for some.

In Zhejiang, nearly 10,000 visitors paid 30 yuan (HK$38) to see a firefly show at Xiang Lake in Hangzhou.

But the evening release of 30,000 fireflies beside a lake turned into a fiasco when the sky remained free of the illuminated insects, China News Service reported. After waiting two hours, the crowd surrounded the lake management office to demand refunds and an explanation.

Angered by the long wait and the insects' no-show, ticket-holders smashed doors and windows at the lake management office, according to the report.

Local media said people could claim a refund.