Beijing opens five new metro lines to ease traffic gridlocks

Beijing`s metro network now hauls a whopping 5.02 million passengers per day but despite its efficient running, it faced constant complaints of over crowded trains.

Last Updated: Dec 30, 2010, 18:48 PM IST

Beijing: After restricting car sales to ease traffic gridlocks, the Chinese capital on Thursday opened five new suburban subway and light rail lines constructed at the cost of USD 9.2 billion to break the jams being endured by its 20 million people.

The five new lines built at the cost of USD 9.2 billion (61 billion Yuan) have a combined length of 108 kilometres, bringing the total length of metro in the Chinese capital to 336 kilometres. The new lines bring the total number of metro lines in the city to 14.

Beijing`s metro network now hauls a whopping 5.02 million passengers per day but despite its efficient running, it faced constant complaints of over crowded trains.

The number of lines in the city will reach 19 by 2015. Their combined length will be total 561 kilometres. By 2020, total milage will increase to 1,000 kilometres, officials said.

"The opening of the five new lines strengthens links between Beijing`s downtown area and the suburban districts will help citizens travel around the city with convenience," Li Xiaosong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications said.

Officials hope that the new metro lines would motivate more people to take to trains to work instead of their cars to ease recurring traffic jams which at times brought the city to stand still.

Massive traffic jams have long been a frustrating experience of residents of Beijing, a city of 20 million people and 4.8 million vehicles. This year, an average 2,000 new cars hit the city`s streets every day.

A week ago, authorities in Beijing announced they will slash new car registrations to ease traffic gridlock. Next year, the city will allow only 240,000 vehicles to be registered, about two-thirds less than this year.

Moreover, Beijing municipal government agencies and public institutions were ordered not to increase the size of their motor vehicle fleets over the next five years.

Other measures include higher parking fees in the city`s central areas, stricter traffic rules for cars registered outside Beijing.

One other measure is an odd-even license plate number system that allows cars to be driven every other day in rush hour in some congested areas.

Officials have acknowledged the restrictions will not automatically solve the city`s traffic woes.

"China is urbanising quickly. Road construction cannot ease traffic congestion," Li said. "Developing public transport, especially rapid rail
transit, is an important move for Beijing and other cities, to ease traffic congestion and improve urban functionality," he said.

PTI