Beijing will not restrict the purchase of private cars as proposed by some residents to help ease traffic jams and stem pollution, according to Wang Haiping, deputy head of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform. He said it would be an irresponsible move while China is trying to boost domestic consumption to offset impacts from the global financial crisis.
It’s inappropriate to restrict car purchases or license plate issuing to control the total number of vehicles. We need to take into account the overall situation of boosting domestic demand and maintaining steady, rapid economic growth. We need to maintain long-term development of the country’s auto industry and citizens’ expectations to improve their livelihoods after becoming more wealthy.—Wang Haiping
Instead, city authorities will rely on boosting construction of the urban mass transit system and other forms of public transport to solve Beijing's traffic issues. Currently, Beijing has eight subway lines with 200 km of track. The city government plans to spend 90 billion yuan (US$13.2 billion) on the construction of more lines within the next two years, increasing the total length to 300 km by 2010, Wang said.
The latest government statistics show that Beijing, a city of 16 million residents, has about 3.5 million vehicles. In addition, about 1,200 new vehicles take to the roads everyday.
Some residents wanted to keep an alternating car ban imposed during the Olympics and Paralympics which took nearly 2 million cars of the roads for two months. It helped eliminate 120,000 tons of pollutants emitted by vehicles, or about 63% of total vehicular pollutant emissions before the ban.
Wang said a new traffic restriction, which went into effect in the Chinese capital on 11 Oct., should satisfy residents concerns. Under the new ban, 70% of government vehicles, as well as all corporate and private cars, take turns staying off the roads one day during the five day work week. It takes some 800,000 cars off the road everyday, according to the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications.
China has been studying a fuel tax reform to replace the current road tolls imposed upon vehicles, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The introduction of a fuel tax in China was first proposed in 1994 but has been delayed amid concerns that it would impose too great a burden on those who consumed more oil.
The government has instead collected road maintenance fees from automobile users regardless of how much gasoline or diesel oil they use. Analysts said the on-going oil price drop presented a good opportunity for China to resume its fuel tax reform.
China’s State Council issued a statement saying it planned to publish details of proposed fuel pricing and tax reforms to solicit public opinion.