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Beijing suffers as "love affair" with cars grows

Updated: 2007-01-22 13:52

The number of new vehicles registered in Beijing hit a new record in the first 18 days of 2007, Xinhua news agency said on Monday, as the city struggles to cope with worsening traffic jams ahead of the 2008 Olympics.

More than 22,000 vehicles -- which under China's statistics system includes everything from private cars to trucks -- were registered and an estimated three million will be on the roads by May, the official news agency said.

"The Chinese love affair with car ownership continues unabated," the report said.

The Chinese capital already boasts more than two million privately owned vehicles and 4.24 million people have a driving licence, it added. The city has a population of around 15 million.

"We granted more than 2,400 new driving licences in a single day," Xinhua quoted an unnamed spokesman for the Beijing Municipal Traffic Management Bureau as saying.

Traffic congestion in the capital has proved to be a headache for organisers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, despite the government investing some $40 billion to expand the antiquated subway system and build new roads.

It has also worsened already serious air pollution.

To tackle the problem, the government is trying to encourage more people to use public transport.

If Beijing's most ambitious expansion plan is approved, the capital could have the world's longest subway network by 2020, exceeding that of London, state media said last year.