Beijing 'plans congestion charge' to ease traffic woes

Beijing traffic 23 Dec 2010 Beijing traffic often reaches a standstill as a generation of cyclists has taken to cars

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Congestion fees are to be introduced on some roads in the Chinese capital Beijing in a bid to tackle chronic traffic problems, state media report.

Officials hope that the charges will encourage more people to use public transport, Xinhua news agency says.

The city is also reportedly planning to encourage residents to buy alternative-energy cars.

Few details of the new measures have been given, but Beijing has long tried to tackle its congestion troubles.

The capital has 4.8m registered vehicles, and residents say the traffic jams are sometimes so bad the roads resemble car parks.

Xinhua did not specify how high the new toll fees would be, which roads would be affected and how the fees would be collected.

But it did report on Beijing's plans to upgrade equipment at electric-vehicle charging stations and to build more of them in the hope of encouraging the purchase of new-energy cars, including electric vehicles.

Beijing officials have been trying to tackle the problem of congestion since the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Measures have included restricting car purchases, increasing parking fees, widening roads and expanding its subway system.

But the city is trying to balance its traffic problems with the desire of a growing middle class to have the convenience and status of car ownership, observers say.

China overtook the US as the world's biggest car and van market in 2009, with 13.6 million vehicles sold within the country.

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