文章 Articles

Can congestion charging soothe Beijing’s woes?

Olympic transport measures in Beijing were a great success, but the British capital may still have some important lessons to teach the Chinese capital about managing traffic, writes London Assembly member Murad Qureshi.

Article image

Visiting Beijing for the very successful Olympic Games in August, and then attending the Urban Transportation Management Forum organized by the Shenzhen Municipal Government to talk to their planning bureau about the experience of congestion charging in London, gave me an interesting idea. During my visit to the east coast cities in China, I was struck by the possibility of introducing London-style congestion charging to Beijing. Such measures increasingly need to be considered due to the need to reduce congestion and improve air quality in Beijing, particularly after the successful short-term measures undertaken during the Olympics have come to an end.

The clear blue skies at the end of the Beijing Olympics were impressive, especially given  concerns expressed by some about the possible adverse effects of air pollution on the performance of top athletes. The latter, of course, did not materialise, as 43 world records and 120 Olympic records were shattered during the Games. Credit here should go to the initiatives taken by the city authorities to improve air quality in Beijing during the Olympics, which were achieved by providing better and cheaper public transport and implementing the car licensing scheme. The success of the latter has interestingly led to local people to call for the extension of the two-month, odd-even license plate restriction that allows the city’s 3.3 million private car owners to drive only on alternate days. In the case of public transport, Zhou Zhengyu, deputy director of the Beijing municipal committee during the Olympics, announced that the reduced ticket prices in use for the duration of the Games would be extended. In Beijing there was a cut in the standard price of a bus ticket by 60% for regular passengers and 80% for students. Last October, the price of a single journey subway ticket was slashed 30% to 2 yuan (US$ 0.29). So, not surprisingly, because of the cheaper fares and the traffic control measures introduced for the Olympics, the proportion of Beijing residents now using public transport on a daily basis is up to 45% from 35%.

The national government initiatives enacted at the beginning of September to raise taxes on big cars and reduce them on smaller ones will also contribute to improving the quality of life in Beijing. Owners of cars with engines above four-litres capacity will have to pay a 40% tax, which is double the existing rate. The tax for cars between three and four litres will rise from 15% to 25%. However, those cars with below one-litre capacity will be reduced from 3% to 1%.  This tax move is a good first step for the country towards an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly economy, while helping to save fuel and thus increase energy security.

Yet Beijing will still have 3.3 million cars, and that figure is growing by 300,000 a year. The only solution to this challenge is the continuous development of the city’s public transport system along its current path, but with one addition – congestion charging that will ration road space by price, so that the marginal cost of an additional trip by a car owner will be paramount in their minds.

The geography of Beijing, with its various ring roads, would lend itself very easily to congestion charging. At the beginning, a congestion charge zone could be introduced within either the second or third ring road and then be extended outwards depending on the success of the scheme and public demand for it. In order to win public support, the funds raised from the congestion charge would have to be reinvested into public transport. As in London, some exemptions, or at least a discount rate, might have to be granted to residents within the charge zone. Nevertheless, the scheme could be put into operation very quickly using simple technology like closed-circuit television at the entry points off the ring roads and camera enforcement using a database of car licenses. Although I understand there is not as yet a national database of car licenses in China, and I am unsure as to numbers of cars that move between the various cities of China, these hurdles should not be insurmountable for the Chinese authorities to overcome.

One day I look forward to visiting Beijing again and seeing road congestion charging, or least another variant of road pricing, being implemented to improve the quality of life for Beijing's residents. This should be the icing on the cake, heaped on top of the outstanding investment already undertaken by the authorities, measures that are aimed toward people-centred and scientific methods of development.

Murad Qureshi is deputy Chair of the London Assembly’s Environmental Committee. This article was originally published at The Qureshi Report.

Now more than ever…

chinadialogue is at the heart of the battle for truth on climate change and its challenges at this critical time.

Our readers are valued by us and now, for the first time, we are asking for your support to help maintain the rigorous, honest reporting and analysis on climate change that you value in a 'post-truth' era.

Support chinadialogue

发表评论 Post a comment

评论通过管理员审核后翻译成中文或英文。 最大字符 1200。

Comments are translated into either Chinese or English after being moderated. Maximum characters 1200.

评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



raise the use costs of private cars

the government should regulate more in a congested city like Beijing. Raising costs of driving private cars can be a way to reduce consuming energy and improve air quality. It is also fair to those who don't have private cars.

Translated by Ming Li

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



It should be like that

No discussion is needed at all on charging the owners of private cars for using them, because the charging itself is perfectly justified! The government should take an uncompromising stand when dealing with environmental protection issues.

Translated by Ming Li

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



In support!

I endure road congestion torture every day to and from work; I don't know if this congestion charge will be an effective prescription for solving this problem or not, but I sure hope so! Additionally, while increasing the net cost of using vehicles, one must also consider benefits for the owners of private cars. The ways of managing cars that are currently in force are such that it costs a lot in fees even for people who don't drive cars. It would be better to change to a situation where those who drive cars bear high costs, while those who do not drive cars pay no money at all. This way, it would be relatively fair with respect to those with cars, and even more, it can spur those with cars not to drive them.

Translated by Matt Waters

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous




本评论由Ming Li翻译

Fuel Subsidies

A previous article on this web site mentioned that the Chinese government subsidises both diesel and petrol for cars. The answer is thus perhaps simple - remove the subsidies.

Improving public transport should be a matter of priority. In this context, the Chinese government could usefullly send a delegation to the German city of Wuppertal. Look at the public transport system and then re-imagine in terms of 21st century design and materials.