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March 19, 2010

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Government applies the brakes

SHANGHAI will order some of its 200,000 dedicated government vehicles off the street in an effort to relieve city traffic pressure during the six-month World Expo period starting in May.

Huang Rong, director of the construction and transport commission, said yesterday the city was planning to keep a portion of local government cars back in the garages during Expo, hoping to grant better road space for the busier local traffic expected then.

How many cars will be taken out of service and exactly how the special curbs will work will remain under discussion until around the end of this month.

"If 20 percent of government cars are held up from service, traffic citywide as a whole could expect to go 7 to 8 percent smoother, according to our current studies," Huang said in an interview.

But he said the plan was complicated by the fact that the city was facing an over-packed reception calendar to help visiting government officials and VIPs.

These out-of-town guests need to be escorted and driven around the city and into the Expo sites by local government vehicles.

There has long been criticism from the public that the frequent traveling of government vehicles contributes significantly to the city's traffic congestion.

Shanghai has had limits on government vehicles since November 2008. Government cars are supposed to stay off the street one day a week, depending on the last number of their license plates.

The local Government Administration Office said it carried out random checks on the implementation of the rule. But the government has never specified the punishment for infractions, and there's been no public report on the effectiveness of the campaign.

Government cars are those serving government department officials as well as high-level personnel with state-owned companies.

The 200,000 government vehicles far outnumber the 40,000-plus taxis in Shanghai that carry up to 22 percent of Shanghai's daily commuters.

Some members of the city's top political advisory body said in a recent report that the government needed to prune dedicated vehicles to allow more space for other cars.


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