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Let's get a move on with transport!
By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-28 05:50

Every Beijing citizen has a real reason to complain about the capital city's transportation problems.

Each one of us has experienced either being squeezed in a bus that moves as slowly as a tortoise or being stuck in a long queue of cars while driving to or from work.

Serious traffic congestion is posing a real headache for residents in a city that has around 2.4 million cars but is expected to have 3.5 million in the next three years. That means thousands more cars on the roads every single week.

So promise from the vice-mayor that Beijing's transport system will get better, and the news that more buses will have a preferential status, have not come a moment too soon.

Huge amounts of extra cash will be ploughed into transport.

Ji Lin, Beijing's vice-mayor, said yesterday that following the bus lane system in the southern Zhongzhou (axial) Road, "the Chaoyang and Anli roads will follow suit." Buses in Zhongzhou Road not only get priority but lights turn green for them as they approach a junction.

It is expected that Beijing will have 200 kilometres of special bus lanes by 2008.

"I will not promise that Beijing will not be jammed at all, but I do promise that a more efficient and faster public transportation system will be established," he said yesterday at a seminar.

"That's great!" said 28-year-old Li Ling, a publishing house editor who takes the bus to work. "It takes me at least 40 minutes to get to work because of congestion, but only half that time when the traffic is flowing. If a bus lane is on my route, I can save 20 minutes and sleep more," added a smiling Li.

Yesterday's seminar was organized in response to motions from deputies to the Beijing Municipal People's Congress about traffic conditions in the capital city.

The legislators complained that buses were too slow because of traffic jams.

They said the average speed of buses was only 11 kilometres per hour.

Wu Shoulun, a congress deputy, said the municipal government must continue to give priority to public transport even if car owners oppose it.

Driver Li Xuan, 29, was typical of many car owners. "I pay various taxes to drive. Why am I still inferior?" He was angry at the thought of cars queuing while buses run smoothly. "I hope deputies can give us some time to deal with the problems," Zhao Wenzhi, director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Communications, said yesterday.

She added that Beijing will increase investment in public transportation to ease traffic congestion.

"Government investment in public transport will go up to 36 per cent of its gross domestic product this year from 18 per cent last year," she said.

A total of 26 billion yuan (US$3 billion) is expected to have been invested in communications construction in Beijing by 2010, sources said.

This year, the municipal government will invest 4.1 billion yuan (US$500 million) in subway renovation projects.

"All subway trains will be equipped with air-conditioning," said transportation official Zhao.

(China Daily 04/28/2005 page3)

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