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Itís the summer of highway traffic jam hell in China
The Toronto Star ^ | September 6, 2010 | Bill Schiller

Posted on 09/07/2010 12:17:07 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks

HUAIAN COUNTY, CHINA—So you think struggling home from Ontario’s cottage country was tough?

Think again.

And consider, if you will, the case of Chinese trucker Pang Laisuo.

On Sunday his coal-laden transport truck was caught in a traffic jam near here, about 240 kilometres north of Beijing.

Pang knew he’d have something of a wait.

What he didn’t know was that it would last 18 hours.

“Everyone who pulled up at 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon ended up being stuck there until 10 o’clock Monday morning,” says Pang, a lean and grizzled man in his 50s speaking at a roadside stop amid the low roar of slow passing trucks. “No one budged.”

Under normal circumstances, in that elapsed time, Pang says he could have hauled his coal from the city of Hohhot, in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, all the way to the mega city of Tianjin — about 700 kilometres.

But circumstances here are anything but normal.

This is the season of traffic hell in this part of China, a summer that brought what has been described as the world’s biggest traffic jam: a monstrosity of traffic that slowed to a crawl in recent weeks and even extended, at one point, to more than 100 kilometres.

The situation was so bad that even China’s state broadcaster CCTV declared last week that the highway from Hohhot to Beijing had morphed into one huge “parking lot.”

That jam paralyzed more than 10,000 trucks, almost all of them carrying coal.

Truckers along this route say that what used to take a day and a half can now take four, five or even six days of travel.

The cause of the calamity, most say, is a combination of bad planning — a summer of endless construction projects that have narrowed traffic lanes — and China’s ever-growing appetite for coal, most of it now being hauled out of Inner Mongolia.

Coal accounts for 70 per cent of China’s energy supplies.

It may be dirty, but it remains cheap and plentiful here and continues to propel China’s juggernaut economy.

In the Gentleman from Hunan Restaurant, on State Road G110 — now arguably China’s main coal transportation artery — a half-dozen truckers from Inner Mongolia know all about it. Hauling coal is their livelihood, but it’s a livelihood that has become more challenging in recent years, they say.

The longer the delays, the more fuel they burn, the more meals they buy, the less coal they move.

“There’s just too many vehicles out there and not enough road,” says one veteran, reaching for a plate of deep-fried pork as his colleagues nod approval.

The others at the table — they range in age from 25 to 39 — all hail from the Baotou area of Inner Mongolia. Most have known each other since childhood. They’re all independent contractors, owning three durable transport trucks worth more than 1.4 million Chinese yuan (about $220,000). They want improvements.

It’s not as if China has neglected to build new expressways. The country has been on a highway-building boom, quintupling its network in the past decade.

But it has been slow to mesh the nation’s specific needs for Mongolian coal with a network of roads that can handle those needs.

Now, local drivers say, existing roads have taken such a beating that repair crews are everywhere at once — shutting down lanes and slowing traffic.

Wisely, the state is building two additional rail lines for coal and cargo to take pressure off the highway system. But they’re not expected to be in place for some time.

As the men speak, the afternoon air outside is filled with the sound of trucks moving gingerly in low gears.

The back up of trucks on this narrow, two-lane stretch extends to the horizon.

“There are just too many tolls in the system,” says the oldest in the crew who, at 39, has 16 years of experience behind the wheel. “It takes too much time getting through all of them.”

“And then there are the police,” another complains.

Truckers say traffic police take a vigorous approach in handing out fines for various infractions. But getting proper receipts for payment is often difficult, suggesting that the police might well be pocketing the proceeds of some of those tickets.

“If you want an official receipt, you have to pay 200 RMB (about $30),” one explains. “But if you don’t want an official receipt, you can pay 100 RMB or even 50 RMB.”

The truckers say they feel like slow-moving targets.

All agree: They can’t wait to see traffic getting moving again.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: beijing; china; coal; congestion; construction; energy; highways; hohhot; innermongolia; roads; tianjin; traffic; trafficjam; transportation; truckers

1 posted on 09/07/2010 12:17:10 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
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To: Willie Green

“Wisely, the state is building two additional rail lines for coal and cargo to take pressure off the highway system. But they’re not expected to be in place for some time.”

Here is a place for your toy choo-choo, Willie.

2 posted on 09/07/2010 12:39:15 AM PDT by patton (Obama has replaced "Res Publica" with "Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi.")
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

This would be due to the superior infrastructure that 0baMao says China has!?!

3 posted on 09/07/2010 12:45:52 AM PDT by TigersEye (Greenhouse Theory is false. Totally debunked. "GH gases" is a non-sequitur.)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks


Try the Garden State Parkway at the end of a long weekend if you want to see a traffic jam.

4 posted on 09/07/2010 2:38:51 AM PDT by NY.SS-Bar9 (When in the course of human events...)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Hauling coal by highway? Good thing we built our railroads first. As well as the Chinese build things, let’s see how long the highways last.

5 posted on 09/07/2010 2:47:24 AM PDT by mikey_hates_everything
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

This sounds like a haz mat incident on I-95 between Washington and Richmond.

The whole East Coast shuts down.

6 posted on 09/07/2010 4:28:27 AM PDT by Venturer
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Well, now we know what that old saying “Chinese Fire Drill” means.

7 posted on 09/07/2010 8:46:16 AM PDT by EggsAckley ( There's an Ethiopian in the fuel supply!)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

or the New Jersey Turnpike south of the lane divide.

8 posted on 09/07/2010 7:18:14 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Muslims are not the problem, the rest of the world is! /s)
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