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China’s capital Beijing plans to implement congestion fees on some of its major, highly trafficked roads, Chinese Xinhua news agency reported on September 2 The measure is primarily meant to help reduce the heavy pollution caused by the high number of cars and it should lead to a decrease in traffic jams.
Hopefully, it will also encourage the residents of the Chinese capital to rely more on alternative-energy, environment-friendly vehicles. Officials also hope that the new congestion charge will inspire Beijing residents to start using public transport more than personal vehicles.
However, the reports did not mention how the fees would actually be collected or any other specific details regarding the manner in which the authorities plan to implement the measure. The plan encourages nevertheless the use of the so-called new energy cars, such as electric vehicles, as an environmentally-conscious alternative to cars which use fuel.
Unspecified incentives to buy new energy vehicles will also be provided. For the same purpose, the plan pledges to build more electric-vehicle charging stations and to upgrade the equipment in the already existing ones.
Measures to reduce traffic pressure have been introduced since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, when car owners could use their vehicles only on certain days, depending on the number of the license plate. However, the measures have not had the desired impact and traffic jams continued to remain a problem.
In January 2011, Beijing began capping new car registrations at a price of 20,000 per month, available through a lottery. That has not slowed the increasing traffic to a significant extent, however, it has deprived tens of thousands of hopeful car owners of the possibility of buying a car.
Beijing also continued to raise parking fees, expand its subway system and build parallel roads, all in an attempt to relieve its heavy traffic. There are voices saying that the measure will probably not have the expected effects, due to the complexity of the problem. “Neither traffic restrictions nor congestion fees can end traffic jams, because they fail to address the essence of the problem,” said Zhang Chang Qing, a traffic law expert at Beijing Jiaotong University.
“Although the plan does not clarify the exact road sections the government is going to charge tolls on, it is simple logic that if it is the Second Ring Road only, people will swarm to Third and the Fourth Ring Road and cause traffic congestion there. Currently, all the rings are already seeing heavy traffic, so I believe the government will have to set up tolls everywhere.”
In 2009, China became the world’s largest auto market, which has led to a constant growth of car ownership. By 2012 the already heavily-trafficked Beijing is expected to have a total of 7 million vehicles on the road.
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