China: Around The Nation

Drivers take a punt on tiny river ferry to beat Beijing’s traffic

Residents of Yanjiao say a backwater crossing cuts hours of grief commuting by car into the Chinese capital

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 5:41pm

To bypass the notorious traffic congestion in the Chinese capital, Beijing, car owners from a neighbouring town have turned to a traditional river ferry crossing to commute to the city, the Beijing Youth Daily reports.

A ferry that crosses the 50-metre-wide Chaobai river has gained increasing traction online in recent days after more drivers seek ways to bypass the traffic horrors between Beijing and Hebei province.

It first came to light after a social media user, Wang Bin, shared his experience online of driving into the city from Yanjiao. Instead of taking the highway, Wang crossed the Chaobai river, which divides Beijing and Hebei, on the ferry.

The ferry’s operator, Li Lian, said he has been crossing the river for more than 30 years and is the fourth generation of his family working to operated the ferry.

Wang said that the traffic jam at the Baimiao checkpoint can easily waste travellers more than an hour during rush hour.

Meanwhile, it only takes only a minute to cross the river, although the narrow vessel can only carry one vehicle at a time.

The report said some 300,000 people commute between Beijing and Yanjiao every day.

In a video on Miaopai, a mainland video sharing and live streaming site, Li said that he only charges each car 10 yuan for a one-way crossing.

The ferry is essentially a raft made of two small metal boats sharing a timber deck.

The vessel has no engine, so Li pulls manually by a metal cord stretched across the river.

Li said he works with another partner, each working 12 hours a day.

He said the job lets him earn about 3,000 yuan a month.

But he added that his son is not strong enough to take on this job.

“People have no alternative route into the city except coming to me,” he said.