Free passes not to blame
Updated: 2014-05-05 07:48
Traffic jams seem a sure companion of national holidays. On May 1, there were constant traffic jams on highways leading out of the several metropolises, the longest, according to reports, was 55 kilometers.
Some blame the jams on the two-year-old policy that allows cars with no more than seven seats to use the highways for free on public holidays, claiming it has encouraged people to drive out of town on trips, but a Beijing News editorial said this is not the real cause of the jams.
The growing automobile culture is doubtlessly among the causes. Data shows that China's production and sales of automobiles both exceeded 20 million in 2013, making it world's top auto market for five successive years. But over the same period there has been no breakthrough in highway construction, and when there are too many birds the nest will naturally become crowded.
Growing domestic tourism also contributes to the jams. At the 2014 global summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council, which concluded last week, it was reported that Chinese people spent almost 3 trillion yuan ($477 billion) on tourism in 2013, which accounted for 12 percent of the total volume of retail sales, more than 90 percent of hotel revenues and more than 80 percent of air and railway use.
Worse, Chinese have to travel during the same periods. As employees' rights to paid leave often fail to be protected, many have no choice but to travel on the limited public holidays. From Oct 1 to 7, the so-called Golden Week, almost every tourist site will be bursting at the seams with visitors.
So while people are demonstrating an increasing desire to travel, the current holiday arrangements and transport systems are insufficient to meet the needs. Therefore it is wrong to blame the free-pass policy.
That does not mean the authorities should stand idle doing nothing. As traffic jams during the holidays are predictable, they could develop more public transport and strengthen legal supervision to ensure that every employee enjoys their entitlement to a paid vacation or offer free passes on other days to encourage people to travel on days other than public holidays.
The measures might not prevent traffic jams, but they may at least ease the jams if well implemented.