Traffic flow given top priority
It is extremely hard for Beijing to ensure smooth traffic flow even during ordinary hours, given its long-standing traffic congestion problems.
The difficulty seems to turn into a mission impossible, when about 5,000 participants gather in the capital to attend the annual session of China's top legislature and political advisory body.
But Beijing traffic police are rising to the challenge through a well-designed programme and the use of high-tech equipment.
The National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will hold their annual meetings from March 3 to March 14.
Participants in these major meetings will be staying in 22 hotels scattered around the city, and traffic jams caused by the motorcades which take them from these hotels to the Great Hall of the People have long been headaches for local residents.
Beijing has already been suffering from heavy traffic mainly due to an exploding number of vehicles, which reached 2.12 million at the end of last year.
Even so, Beijing traffic police are managing to keep traffic inconveniences caused by the convention of the meetings to a minimum level, said Beijing Municipal Traffic Administration Director Li Jianhua.
He revealed that a special traffic control programme, consisting of a number of innovative measures will be put into place to greatly improve traffic flow throughout the meeting period.
A core part of the programme is to use advanced global positioning system (GPS) equipment to ensure an uninterrupted flow of traffic, the director said.
That's because the accuracy of the GPS consoles will help arrange the participants' journeys to and from conference gatherings more effectively, and thus highly shorten the running time of their motorcades on the road.
Li said the average time for a motorcade to travel between a hotel and the Great Hall of the People is expected to be cut to 35 minutes this year from 50 minutes in the past.
That means less traffic control time to limit the driving by other vehicles, and fewer driveways will have to be cleared to pave way for motorcades of these meetings.
Cheng Jian, another official with the traffic administration, said local traffic police will set up a command centre in the Great Hall of the People to dispatch all the motorcades according to the actual traffic conditions.
Dispatchers at the centre can monitor the travel times of each motorcade, so that they do not stretch too long on the road and cause traffic jams.
"We will try our best to make sure the average speed of these motorcades can reach 60 kilometres an hour, to reduce disruptions to the normal travel of other vehicles,'' he said.
Cheng added that the traffic administration also plans to notify local drivers of traffic information in advance through radio, outdoor electronic screens and temporary traffic and road signs to avoid traffic problems.
"(Thanks to the newly added notices,) I can at least choose another route before bumping into the motorcades and be reduced to endless waiting without the slightest idea when the move can resume,'' said Zhang Dongquan, a middle-aged taxi driver with the Beijing Yuyang Taxi Company.
Meanwhile, organizers of the NPC and CPPCC National Committee meetings have also taken co-operative measures to alleviate any potential traffic troubles.
A staff member with the Logistics Team of the NPC session told China Daily that organizers of the meetings have tried their best to reduce the use of vehicles.
"Almost all panel discussions and delegation meetings will be arranged in the hotels where these NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members will be staying,'' said a clerk who declined to be named.
"Only a minimum number of delegation meetings and some press conferences will be held in the Great Hall of the People, apart from the plenary meetings.''