SHENZHEN will launch an 11 billion yuan (HK$14.91 billion) light rail project to ease the long-standing traffic congestion problem in the boom city, according to a senior municipal official. Mr Zhang Shuo, director of Shenzhen Government Planning Bureau, said the rail, linking Shekou to Lowu and Huangtian to Huanggang, would be working by 1997. He disclosed that the Shenzhen authorities were negotiating with several Hongkong companies over the project. He hoped that construction could start by the end of the year. The project was part of a comprehensive strategy to alleviate congestion in the city, said Shenzhen Mayor, Mr Li Youwei. Mr Li said that the traffic problem was so serious it would hamper Shenzhen's development. One reason for the congestion was Shenzhen's close link with Hongkong, which brought 19,000 container lorries to the Special Economic Zone every day. Together with the 60,000 vehicles commuting from other areas of China and the 130,000 vehicles registered locally, it had worsened the already-congested traffic in Shenzhen. Mr Li said: ''With so many vehicles running on roads everyday, the density is extremely high and the degree of congestion is astonishing.'' On top of the rail system, efforts would also be made to improve the inner-city transport of Shenzhen as well as its links with other parts of the country. Road links with other cities would be strengthened in the next three to five years when a large-scale construction plan of highways, with a total length of more than 600 kilometres, is completed. The completion of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Highway this year is an interim measure to ease the jammed external link of Shenzhen. More roads will be built to ease the traffic pressure caused by the growing population in Shenzhen. ''People will not need to enter the city if they want to cross the border in the future,'' he said. Mr Li said the Government was looking into ways to control the number of vehicles in Shenzhen and streamline the cross-border procedures to ease traffic congestion at customs posts. Mr Li also admitted yesterday that the deteriorating social order in Shenzhen had prompted a need for better population control. The problem was caused by job-seekers from other counties who made up the majority of the city's population, he said. More than three-quarters of those arrested last year were ''foreign'' job-seekers.