What is the traffic jam from Beijing

For many Chinese people, driving is still a status symbol. In 2014 alone, the number of civilian vehicles rose by 12.4 percent to around 155 million. Cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou have introduced systems in recent years to get the rapidly increasing number of cars under control. For example, admissions are only granted through auctions and lotteries. Drivers have to dig deep into their pockets and sometimes wait several months before they can register their car.

Nevertheless, that has not been enough so far. More and more cars are on the roads of China. The air pollution is dramatic. The fine dust values ​​are regularly well above the maximum limit recommended by the World Health Organization. In Beijing, where five million civilian cars are registered, the government declared the highest smog alert several times in December. Schoolchildren at home, cars in garages and factories had to stay empty for days.

In order to get the dramatic consequences of environmental pollution - caused not only by cars, but also by industrial plants and power plants - under control, the government has drawn up an action plan until 2017. One of the main measures is a congestion tax to be introduced in the Chinese capital this year.

The rules for the tax are still unclear The levy for cars is already available in some other cities around the world. Including Stockholm, Gothenburg and Tokyo. In Singapore, drivers have had to pay for trips to the city center by car since 1975. The best-known example of the congestion charge is probably London - there was heated debate across the country before it was introduced in 2003.

Drivers in the financial metropolis have to pay around 16 euros on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. when they are in the 21 square kilometer toll zone in the city center. To do this, drivers register their license plates online. Cameras film the cars as they enter and exit the zone and automatically compare the license plates. Those who are not registered have to pay a fine of up to 176 euros.

How exactly the fee will work in Beijing is still unclear. The city center is either to be divided into zones similar to London or the costs will be calculated depending on the volume of traffic. Residents should also be able to buy a pass at a fixed price. Electric cars are exempt from the tax.

80,000 fewer cars per day Even if the introduction of the tax has been massively criticized in other countries, it is having an effect. In a 2010 study, the International Council on Clean Transportation examined congestion taxes in London, Singapore and Stockholm. In the cities there were permanently between 13 and 30 percent fewer traffic jams. Greenhouse gas emissions fell by up to 20 percent. In addition, there are the positive effects, which are more difficult to measure: people move more, the air improves, and illnesses decrease.

In London, the revenue from the toll will also be reinvested in local transport by the Transport of London organization, which is responsible for the transport system in London. According to the company, around 1.6 billion euros more flowed into the expansion of local public transport between 2003 and 2014. Including 1.3 billion euros in the bus network alone. In addition, since its introduction, an average of around 27 percent fewer cars should drive in the zone each year. That's around 80,000 cars a day.

Alternatives to the car are neededTo what extent the tax will help in China remains to be seen. Stricter traffic rules, the complicated and expensive registration and the dense traffic make driving a car even without a tax increasingly unattractive in Chinese cities.

Above all, however, one thing applies: even those who want to leave their car in the garage in the future need alternatives. Local passenger transport is massively subsidized. Subway rides across Beijing, for example, usually only cost a few yuan. But the city's subway network was expanded too late. In the stations, the lines are sometimes miles apart. No matter where you want to go, you often need up to two hours each way. Bus traffic is suffering from the chaos on the streets and car-sharing offers are accepted, but are not yet widespread enough.

According to the World Bank, the “war on pollution” proclaimed by Prime Minister Li Keqiang will cost the country almost ten percent of its annual economic output in 2013 alone. In addition, according to the non-governmental organization Berkley Earth, around 17 percent of the dead in China in recent years have died as a result of air pollution. The Chinese government needs to invest more in alternatives. Otherwise, even the best tax will do no good.

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