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Beijing's traffic slows to a crawl

By Wang Xiaodong and Cao Yin  (China Daily)

13:41, September 27, 2012

Beijing's transport authority has warned commuters to expect even more gridlock in the coming days, as millions hit the road, heading both into and out of the capital, for the holidays.

According to the Traffic Performance Index, which measures congestion on a scale of zero (smooth) to 10 (snarled), the city hit 8.5 during the evening rush hour on Wednesday and 9.1 on roads within Third Ring Road at 7 pm.

Speeds dropped to 20 km an hour for most drivers, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport said.

The worst traffic of the year so far, however, happened on Tuesday night, when the index reached a peak of 9.8. By 6:30 pm that day, vehicles were crawling along in the rain at just 13 km/h.

Motorists and bus passengers are being told to expect more of the same.

The capital will see "serious and widespread gridlock" on Thursday and Friday, the commission warned on its website.

Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (Sept 30 this year), is a traditional time for family reunions, while the National Day holiday, which begins on every Oct 1, is a major travel season.

With the two taking place on back-to-back days this year, the capital has seen an unusual surge in inbound and outbound traffic.

"A major cause of congestion is that cars from all over the country are heading to Beijing several days before Mid-Autumn Festival," said Wang Mengshu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a leading expert in tunnels and underground engineering.

The festival has also become an opportunity for people to deliver gifts to maintain connections.

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