Beijing's city planning authorities have proposed an ambitious plan to build six underground highways to ease the Chinese capital's traffic congestion woes.
Four North-South and two East-West underground highways crossing downtown Beijing would lighten traffic pressure on the No. 2 and No. 3 ring roads, according to a plan drawn up by the Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning and Design and the Beijing Urban Engineering Design and Research Institute.
The plan was proposed at an international conference on underground space usage held in Beijing this weekend and will be discussed over the next few months.
It has already met with opposition from leading traffic experts. "It will cost much more and is more difficult in terms of technology to build underground highways instead of metro lines," said Duan Liren, the head of the research institute of traffic management in Beijing.
"Furthermore, it is not as easy to deal with fires or gas leaks in underground highways as it is in subways, which are under human supervision," he said.
Four subway lines are currently in operation in Beijing with a total length of 114 km. By 2008, there will be nine lines totaling 200 km, and by 2020 the city government plans to have 19 subway lines in operation, totaling 561.5 kilometers, which could make it the largest underground rail system in the world, according to the conference.