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November 9, 2009

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Chongming overrun as tunnel-bridge proves hit

CITY traffic and tourism authorities faced a wave of complaints yesterday as visitors hit Chongming Island en masse for the second weekend in a row.

The Changjiang tunnel-bridge, which opened on October 31, has proved a hit but facilities are being overrun.

Chief complaints center around the shortage of parking spaces and public toilets, both on the island and the bridge.

"I have never seen so many people crowded into our town market," said Wang Gang, a Chongming resident who lives in Chenjia Town, the first community passengers and drivers see after they get off the tunnel-bridge.

More than 100,000 travelers arrived on the island over the weekend, with the total volume surpassing a record 300,000 in the past week, according to local tourism authorities.

Traffic congestion occurred at toll booths but it was a smooth 20-minute ride via the tunnel-bridge.

Big crowds gathered at the city's two newly opened bus services from downtown to Chongming and Changxing islands. At one of them, in the Pudong New Area, some passengers had to queue for up to two and half hours on Saturday morning.

"In just one morning, about 100 buses stopped by at the station," said a dispatcher, surnamed Lu, of the Chongming bus company.

Plea to farmers

About 17,000 to 18,000 people, mostly elderly, traveled via the new routes on Saturday, according to Chen Jian, an operations manager of the bus company.

The volume dropped to about 15,000 passengers yesterday, officials said.

The interval time between each bus is about three minutes during rush hours, prompting Lu to lightheartedly say: "These buses run like subways."

Chongming islanders, generally happy over being the center of attention, are gearing up to provide better services.

Officials of Chenjia Town planned to enlarge an existing parking lot by two-thirds to accommodate 1,000 vehicles, said Wang.

Farmers in the town have been asked to grow more vegetables to meet the huge increase in demand.

City traffic police said yesterday about 40 accidents happened in the week after the opening but no one was injured. Police warned people not to stop their vehicles and take photos on the bridge.

Meanwhile, the Shanghai Tourism Administration has asked city tour agencies to limit group numbers going to the island at weekends to alleviate overcrowding.

Some visitors complained that they had to wait in long lines at toilets on the island, and could not even find one on the bridge. Officials said temporary toilets would be set up on the island as a stopgap measure.

Restaurant queues and waiting times also caused concern. Chongming's tourism agency will urge fast-food companies to cater for extra visitors.


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