Beijing focuses on public transport to free up traffic

 
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BEIJING, Apr 18 (Reuters) Beijing is hoping a 13 billion's dollars investment in public transport will be enough to keep the traffic flowing at next year's Olympic Games, an official said today.

Despite more than 1,000 new vehicles hitting the roads of the Chinese capital every day, Liu Xiaoming of the city's transportation committee said there was no need yet to raise car registration fees or impose congestion charges.

''Given such growth, the transport system will be put under great stress ... (but) at the moment in Beijing, we have not come to the stage where we need to restrict car use,'' he told a news conference.

''We are concentrating on expanding public transport although we will not exclude the possibility that we will make some adjustments to parking fees in the city centre.'' Liu said the municipal government and Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) were discussing specific measures to reduce traffic by 20 to 30 per cent during the Games.

''Overall, priority will be given to the development of public transport,'' he said.

''We will also have Olympic lanes, exclusive bus services, strict parking restrictions, government vehicles taken off the roads and perhaps some of the measures used at the Atlanta, Seoul and Sydney Olympics.

''With all these measures, I think that will be enough to ensure good traffic flow.'' Around 3.3 million cars were expected to be on the roads by August next year, Liu said, so a 30 per cent reduction would mean keeping a million cars off the road, fewer than Atlanta managed when they hosted the Games in 1996.

Bus lanes would be increasingly used and three new subway lines would also help, Liu said.

Liu denied that a recent accident in the construction of one new line, which killed six workers, had been due to rushing the project to have it finished by the June 30, 2008 deadline.

''Some say it is because we want to hurry up, that is not the case,'' he said. ''We pay a lot of attention to the balance of safety, quality, schedule, investment and profit.

''We don't just think about speed.'' Beijing has been investing heavily in its railway and subway network. The final goal is to have 561 km of lines by 2015 when it is hoped that 50 per cent of public transport journeys will be by rail, up from 20 per cent on the 114 km of lines today.

Liu said the city had spent 30 billion yuan annually over the past three years on its transport system, spending that would increase by 10 per cent over the next couple of years.

REUTERS TB VV1733

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