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Private cars to be on Beijing streets on alternate days

By Pranay Sharma, IANS,

Beijing : Car owners in Beijing will have to remember the last digit of their licence plates and the day of the week before taking their vehicles out on the streets from Sunday as traffic management gets into top gear for the Olympics next month.

According to an odd-even number traffic control plan devised by the local authorities, private vehicles will be allowed on the streets on alternate days. If a car with an odd numbered licence plate is allowed to ply Sunday, those with even numbers will get the opportunity the next day.

Anyone who violates the new rules will be fined 100 yuans – approximately US $14 – as the authorities are trying to encourage Beijing residents to use the public transport system.

The new traffic system aimed at easing the pressure by keeping off the road a large number of the estimated three million vehicles that ply Beijing’s streets will come into force from July 20.

Chinese officials said from the beginning of this month, 50 percent of government vehicles have already been taken off the streets. Many more new measures are being thought of to deal with the surge of people and traffic during the Beijing Olympics beginning Aug 8.

“Nearly half the government vehicles have been off the street from July 1 as part of the new traffic control system,” Zhuofan Yang, director of China’s State Council Information Office, told IANS.

The Chinese authorities have also decided to change office hours in most government establishments from July 20 for the next two months to ease the traffic pressure on the city.

Public institutions will open an hour later at 9.30 a.m. and close at 5.30 p.m., while working hours for companies will be between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., China Daily said quoting a notice issued by the Beijing municipal government.

The Beijing government is also trying to encourage people to work on-line from home to avoid commuting and adapt to flexible working hours for government bodies and companies, the Daily said.

Schools, administrative bodies and essential services are exempt from these new rules. But shopping malls will remain open from 10 in the morning till 10 at night and beyond to allow visitors during the Olympic Games to shop.

In order to make the Olympics as environment friendly as possible, the authorities will also use 500 vehicles driven by electricity, mixed fuel and batteries to shuttle between the Olympic villages and the venues.

Chinese authorities claim the “zero-emission” vehicles will save up to 780 tonnes of gasoline and diesel and reduce carbon dioxide discharge by 2,500 tonnes.

The authorities are also thinking of introducing an “intelligent traffic system” by setting up 126 road sensors at intersections of special traffic lanes for the Games.

The sensor will transmit a message to the traffic signal control system as soon as it detects a bus waiting at the Olympic lane at a crossing. The inbuilt software in the system will then change the traffic light to green to shorten the waiting time of the vehicle. Such sensors will also be installed to improve the public transport system.