25 August 2010

Chinese Traffic Jam Extends 60 Miles and Nine Days

Excerpt from The Australian, 25 August 2010

'China's hellish 10-day-old traffic jam now stretches 100km and could last another three weeks.

Triggered by road construction, the snarl-up reaches almost to the outskirts of Beijing, traffic still creeps along in fits and starts and villages along the route are making a killing providing supplies for stranded drivers.

It's a metaphor for a nation that sometimes chokes on its own breakneck growth.

In the worst-hit stretches of the road in northern China, drivers pass the time sitting in the shade of their immobilised trucks, playing cards, sleeping on the asphalt or bargaining with price-gouging food vendors. Many of the trucks that carry fruit and vegetables are unrefrigerated and the cargoes are assumed to be rotting.

On Sunday, the eighth day of the near-standstill, trucks moved just a kilometre on the worst section, said Zhang Minghai, a traffic director in Zhangjiakou, a city about 150km northwest of Beijing.

China Central Television reported that some vehicles had been stuck for five days.

No portable toilets were set up along the highway, leaving only two apparent options - hike to a service area or into the fields...

The traffic jam built up on the Beijing-Tibet highway, on a section that links the capital to the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia. The main reason traffic has increased on this partially four-lane highway is the opening of coal mines in the northwest, vital for the booming economy that this month surpassed Japan's in size and is now second only to the US...

The car invasion is widely felt. Guo Jifu, head of the Beijing Transportation Research Centre, told a symposium on Monday that vehicles on Beijing's roads multiplied by 1900 per day on average in the first half of this year.

The immediate cause of the traffic jam that began August 14 is construction on one of three southbound highways feeding into Beijing.'

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