The vice-mayor of Beijing responsible for traffic management has resigned after a government plan to clear the city’s gridlocked streets sparked panic buying of cars.
The resignation of Huang Wei, in charge of transport since 2008, was announced on Thursday, the same day that new traffic regulations were introduced in an effort to ease the world’s worst traffic jams.
According to an official announcement, Mr Huang will be sent to work in the remote far north-western province of Xinjiang, sometimes regarded as China’s version of Siberia.
On December 13 the Beijing government published a draft plan to tackle congestion for public consultation. Many Beijingers assumed the government had already decided to limit new vehicle purchases and rushed to buy cars instead.
In the following week, Beijing residents bought more than 30,000 cars, up from 20,000 the previous week, according to government statistics, while responses to the call for public consultation barely reached 3,000.
The regulations will limit the number of new car licences in Beijing next year to 240,000, to be allocated through a lottery system.
That compares with well over 700,000 new cars in Beijing so far this year. The number of cars has risen from 2.8m in 2005 to nearly 4.8m today.
Other changes aimed at improving traffic flow include higher parking fees, building more roads and parking spaces as well as limiting the use of government cars.
In a survey conducted by IBM this year, Beijing tied with Mexico City as having the world’s worst traffic. Experts have long warned of Beijing’s inadequate traffic management plans.
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