Shanghai traffic police to get helicopters

13:00, August 03, 2010      

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A helicopter squad will be set up to help Shanghai traffic police monitor the city's increasingly complicated road conditions and deal with traffic emergencies.

"Work on setting up the squad is in progress. The squad will be in operation in the very near future," Guo Yonghua, deputy head of Shanghai municipal public security bureau, said on Monday.

He said the squad will be equipped with four helicopters, though the number of staff has yet to be decided.

The helicopters, all bought from Europe, can promptly drop medical staff, firefighters and police to a traffic scene and can also drag vehicles off the road to resume the traffic flow.

Otherwise, the helicopters will provide real-time information to traffic police while monitoring traffic conditions on the city's highways and arteries. Equipped with video recorders, the helicopters will also be able to document evidence by filming traffic violations.

"The city's roads are getting busier by the day," said Yin Peng, 38, a resident who has been driving in Shanghai for 10 years.

"It takes almost twice as much time to commute on a daily basis than it did a decade ago. I hope the police's latest move can help organize the city's traffic."

It is estimated that the number of private cars in Shanghai will hit 1.5 million at the end of this year, up from more than 1.2 million in 2005.

Last year, more than 1,000 people were killed and 2,702 injured in 2,831 traffic accidents in the city, up 3.13 percent year on year. The accidents caused an economic loss of 12 million yuan ($1.8 million).

However, experts said the helicopter squad, a concept already in operation in big cities elsewhere in the world, such as New York and London, will not fundamentally change the city's deteriorating traffic.

"The launch of the squad is definitely a blessing, but the traffic problem has so many dimensions that require wide cooperation among different government departments," said Sun Lijun, head of the School of Transportation Engineering at Tongji University.

He added that efforts by Shanghai's traffic department alone will not improve the city's traffic.

Different government departments need to cooperate, which is "very hard to achieve in China due to systematic problems", he said.

By Gao Changxin, China Daily


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