Beijing ready to go toll-free
Updated: 2012-09-18 23:50
By Tan Zongyang (China Daily)
Beijing joined a number of regions to scrap toll charges on highways and airport expressways during one of the longest-ever eight-day National Day holidays, which starts Sept 30.
Officials said all of Beijing's highways, including the airport expressways, will give free passage to small passenger cars.
Wang Anshun, acting mayor of Beijing, vowed that "100 percent of the tolled highways in Beijing will exempt passenger cars from road tolls", according to a statement on the website of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport on Monday.
Beijing now has 17 highways that have tollgates. The new move will allow those highways, with a total mileage of 816 km, to join the city's road network for the free flow of passenger cars during the annual travel peak.
Wang added that the city will try its best to ensure road safety, as there is a rising concern that too many private automobiles will cause traffic jams and endanger safety.
"We expect the traffic flow on the roads will have a sharp increase during the holidays," said Liu Jiayuan, a publicity officer at the Beijing Capital Highway Development Group, which manages the city's airport expressways.
Liu said the company is now busy cooperating with traffic authorities for measures that can improve traffic efficiency, while making contingency plans for possible incidents resulting from heavy traffic.
"At Tianzhu Toll Station, the main gateway leading to Beijing Capital International Airport, we will open four lanes specially for small passenger vehicles to pass for free," Liu said.
Liu added that the regulators required road companies in the city to turn at least 40 percent of the normal lanes at tollgates into similar special lanes to separate the flow of small passenger cars from long-distance buses or trucks, which still need to pay tolls.
Roads signs will be added at tollgates before the holidays to remind people about the toll-free policy as well as helping divert traffic, Liu said.
In early August, the State Council approved a plan to lift road tolls nationwide during four major Chinese holidays — Spring Festival, Tomb Sweeping Day, May Day and National Day.
The plan said passenger cars with seven seats or less and motorcycles will get a free pass on toll roads, bridges and tunnels. However, it depends on the local government to decide whether fees for airport expressways should be waived or not.
Since last week, many municipalities and provinces have echoed the central government's policy.
So far, a majority of those regions, including Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Sichuan, Fujian and Henan provinces, have confirmed that not only highways but also airport expressways will be free from tolls.
The Ministry of Transport has urged other provinces to make rules to implement the toll-free plan no later than this week.
The upcoming eight-day holiday, also known as Golden Week in China, will combine the National Day holidays and the Mid-Autumn Festival, a tradition time for family reunions. Another busy weeklong holiday is Spring Festival, or the Chinese New Year.
The China Tourism Academy said in a report last week that Chinese people are estimated to make 362 million trips during the holidays, up 20 percent compared with the same period last year.
Li Yu contributed to this story.
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