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As delegates take detour, it's smooth driving for all
By Liu Wei (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-07 05:52

Wang Songbai was all too familiar with Beijing traffic jams in March when the national legislative and advisory bodies are in annual session.

So the veteran taxi driver carefully charted alternate routes this year only to pleasantly discover that he need not have bothered.

The 45-year-old lives in Niujie, a populous community near the South Second Ring Road in Xuanwu District and mostly plies around the area which used to be congested with vehicles carrying deputies and delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

But this year, Wang does not have to drive through bylanes to avoid traffic jams on the main streets, which used to slash his average daily income from 400 yuan (US$50) to about 300 yuan (US$37).

All conference vehicles have been told to avoid the West and South Second Ring Road as well as six other major roads and bridges in downtown Beijing and take detours, according to the traffic scheme announced for the session period.

"The alternative route is designed to generate as little traffic congestion as possible, especially on the busy road and bridge sections," said Zhang Chunjing, an official of the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau.

Traffic control is a key mission for the bureau every year during the two-week NPC and CPPCC sessions, which attract about 2,200 NPC deputies and 2,900 CPPCC members this year. The large retinues accompanying them push the total figure to around 15,000 people.

Wang, as well as the fast-growing number of Beijing motorists, are clearly delighted with the new traffic arrangement, which allows their vehicles to travel side by side with the coaches and cars serving the delegates.

The use of the global positioning system and other devices also enables the smooth flow of traffic, said Zhang.

For instance, roadside electronic boards and radio broadcasts flash notices of approaching official vehicles well in advance.

Also, residents are encouraged to take buses and subways instead of driving during the conference season, especially those who live or work in the city's central area.

Beijing metro has seen a 10-per-cent rise in the number of passengers to nearly 2 million on Friday, when the CPPCC session began.

As for Wang, he is satisfied with his takings over the weekend and hopes the good times last till the end of the sessions.

(China Daily 03/07/2006 page1)

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