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Drivers warned of more congestion after cut in tolls

DRIVERS have been warned of serious congestion on the Shanghai-Jiading Expressway, or A12, at peak periods after some tolls were reduced and others abolished.

Traffic volume on A12 was nearly double the previous average during the six hours from 6am yesterday and there was serious congestion from 7 am to 9am, the Shanghai Highway Administration said.

The new toll policy took effect on Sunday. Buses can now travel free where previously they paid 10 yuan (US$14.6) and cars, which had paid 10 yuan, now pay 5 yuan but can travel free on the downtown-Nanxiang section of the road.

"As we predicted, the road was choked by traffic on the first workday since the tolls were cut," Dong Hui, an administration official said.

The number of buses had increased by more than 50 percent. "The rapid increase in these large vehicles further congested traffic on the roadway," she said.

Vehicles from downtown leaving the road by its mid-way Nanxiang Toll Station saw an increase of 60 percent and the number of cars entering by the Jiading Toll Station, the end of the route, heading downtown increased by 30 percent.

The government is carrying out a series of road projects to help ease access between downtown and Jiading District but since most will not complete in the next couple of years, the A12 remains the only major route in the area.

Office workers with the road's management company were called out yesterday to help toll crews hand out more than 5,000 free-pass tickets. The cards were given to vehicles entitled to free trips to save time at the toll booths. More than 30 traffic police officers also helped the crew hand out the tickets as traffic queues built up some distance from each toll station.

The Outer Ring Road and Middle Ring Road connected to sections of the A12 also faced increased traffic volume yesterday.

There had been calls for the road to be completely toll free since the government should have long recouped their 230 million yuan investment because the road had been built 20 years ago.

However, the highway administration said an investigation indicated that traffic volume on A12 could increase by up to 70 percent if it was toll-free, leading to "near-complete paralysis."


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