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Chinese Gov't to Focus on Public Transportation


The Chinese government is gearing up to play a bigger role in developing public transportation, according to a document jointly released by four ministries on Saturday.

The document, released by the National Development and Reform Commission and the ministries of construction, finance and labour and social security, describes the development of public transportation as a priority and calls for favourable policies to promote its expansion.

Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of construction, said at the National Conference of Public Transport Development on Saturday that public transportation is the surest way to ease traffic congestion, which has plagued China's major cities in recent years.

The document says the government should be the main investor in construction projects in the public transportation sector. It calls on the government to set up investment, subsidy and compensation systems to promote its development.

The central government is also looking to subsidize public transport enterprises to offset the burden of future increases in petroleum prices.

The government will also do an annual audit and appraisal of public transport enterprises' operations and implement a performance-based subsidy system to reward those enterprises that do well in the appraisals.

Qiu said the average speed of vehicles on Beijing's main roads had fallen by half in the past decade, and that 60 per cent of the city's main intersections suffer from serious traffic congestion.

"The rapid increase in the number of automobiles on the roads has placed great pressure on Beijing's traffic conditions, resources and environment," said Ji Lin, vice-mayor of Beijing.

"Treating the development of public transportation as a priority is one of the city's long-term strategies."

Ji said the number of vehicles plying Beijing's streets has hit 2.82 million and is still increasing at the rapid rate of 1,000 new cars per day.

"It is unrealistic to attempt to resolve the city's traffic jams simply by widening roads because any effort to widen the roads would lag behind the increase in automobiles," said Wang Fengwu, an official with the Ministry of Construction.

Wang said the ministry wanted public transportation to account for a third of the transportation available in the country's main cities within the next five years.

At present, public transportation accounts for only about 10 per cent.

Wang said the ministry was considering changing the traffic signal system in some cities to favour public transportation.

For example, buses could get longer green lights at intersections.

According to statistics from the World Bank, the average speed of vehicles on the main roads between Beijing's second and third ring roads during rush hours fell to 10 kilometre-per-hour (kph) last year from 45 kph in 1994. That is slower than bicycles.

In 2003, the economic losses caused by traffic congestion reached 250 billion yuan (US$31.25 billion), accounting for 2 per cent of the year's GDP.


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