Believe it or not: A traffic jam that's entered 13th day! Stretches 100km; may take as long as mid-Sept to clear.
Beijing: Baffled by the world's longest traffic jam, the Chinese government has mobilised hundreds of policemen to clear the 100-km long stretch of the Beijing-Tibet highway, riddled with vehicles for 13 days, with the pile-up almost reaching the outskirts of the capital. There have been no reports of road rage, and the main complaint has been about villagers on bicycles selling food and water at 10 times the normal price.
The snarl up on the highway, on a section that links the capital to the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia was triggered by road construction and repair. While all sorts of vehicles appeared to have been caught up in the jam, it was mostly caused by lengthy coal carrying trucks, which brings fuel for the industries around the capital.
The traffic jam was currently noticed about 60 km outside Beijing and officials hope to clear it in the next few days with the deployment of large traffic police at various places. The government has mobilised hundreds of policemen to clear the massive pile-up that has caused embarrassment here.
In the worst-hit stretches of the road in northern China, drivers pass the time sitting in the shade of their immobilized 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 over a kilometer (less than a mile) on the worst section, said Zhang Minghai, a traffic director in Zhangjiakou, a city about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Beijing. China Central Television reported Tuesday 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. At several places, drivers, sick and tired of the snarl up, were bitter and angry as temperatures soared during the day and dipped in the nights. Many complained that local vendors were fleecing them for food and water, charging heavy rates, by selling water for 10 yuan as against 1 yuan.
The jam which some in Beijing say was not new in that particular section has also brought the spotlight back on China's soaring auto sales. The congestion is set to peak in five years, when the total number of cars is expected to nearly double, the Beijing Transportation Research Centre said in its new report.
If people continue to purchase vehicles at the current rate of 1,900 new cars a day, the total will reach seven million in 2015 in Beijing alone, reducing average speeds in the city to below 15 km an hour, the report said.
"Beijing's already a big parking lot!" complained a taxi driver Gan during a traffic jam on the East Third Ring Road. "We're making another Great Wall, it's just that this one is made of cars," he said.
By the end of 2009, Beijing had four million cars, a growth of 17 per cent over 2008. Experts say the urban layout forces people to buy cars and the city planning leaves people no choice but to travel.