China is a great automotive market and will remain so as long as more and more manufacturers are attracted by cheap labor costs and state incentives.
But the downside of this breathtaking boom is actually the continuously increasing number of cars that reach the public roads in China. If we are to trust the estimates, no less than 7 million cars are expected to be on the road by 2015 in Beijing. What’s more, nearly 14 million cars are purchased each year, while 650,000 vehicles meet the road every month. It’s like saying: “hey, everybody in Beijing must have a car. No, make that two!”.
Authorities have tried to stop residents from buying so many cars, mostly in an attempt to reduce pollution and ease traffic, but their efforts are almost useless. Beijing drivers for example must leave their cars at home one day per week, based on a scheme that involves the last digit of the number plate, again in an effort supposed to ease traffic on Chinese roads. Still, local reports claim that the daily Chinese driver spends two or three hours per day in traffic, just because of the huge number of cars.
A CLOSER LOOK
Well, the inevitable has happened in the end and it’s hard to find someone to blame. Back in August 2010, China was crowned the unofficial “host” of the mother of all traffic jams, with a huge car panorama that stretched for more than 62 miles (100 km) and lasted for 12 days.
It all happened on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway near Beijing and, ironically, the cause of the huge traffic jam was the road work on the highway. Trucks carrying construction supplies to Beijing, most of them supposed to be used on the expressway in order to ease traffic, were blocked at the exit, thus causing a traffic jam that lasted over 12 days.
The highway was initially designed to be used exclusively by trucks, but due to the growing number of vehicles, passenger cars started using it too.