BEIJING - Traffic congestion in Beijing is worsening in the run-up to the holiday season, with shoppers and tourists joining rush hour commuters to snarl the capital's roads.
Gridlock extended for several kilometers on 120 urban roads Sunday evening, the Beijing Road Traffic Bureau said.
The situation was just slightly better than the evening on Friday, Sept 17, when traffic across the city ground to a halt when a downpour hit.
The capital's traffic congestion has also hit the headlines of the city's newspapers. The traffic chaos was also widely discussed on online forums Monday.
One netizen complained he spent five hours to travel 13 kilometers on a bus Sunday evening. One driver said he was trapped in traffic for nearly an hour near his home.
Sunday was a working day in China, in order to allow an extra day off for the mid-autumn festival which falls on Wednesday. But the city's traffic restriction system, which keeps about 20 percent of the city's cars off the road from Monday to Friday, was not in effect.
Beijing's traffic authorities said the pre-holiday gridlock began last Monday, Sept 13, when congestion was reported near big department stores, supermarkets and restaurants.
"The evening rush hour actually starts at 3 pm and lasts until 9 pm," a bureau spokesman said.
He warned the gridlock would last until the week-long National Day holiday that begins Oct 1.
The situation may be particularly bad on Saturday and Sunday, because the two days are work days without traffic restriction, he said.
In addition to urban roads, the bureau said interprovincial highways may also suffer traffic congestion as some people begin their holiday travels early.
Prior to the holiday rush, a huge traffic jam that stretched for at least 120 kilometers paralyzed an expressway linking Beijing with Tibet, with thousands of trucks loaded with freight stuck in the bottleneck.
Beijing is on track to have 5 million motor vehicles on its roads by the end of the year.
By July, Beijing had 4.4 million vehicles on its roads, with an average driving speed of 24.2 km per hour during weekday rush hour, 3.6 percent slower than last year's average, the municipal commission of transport said.