China Expressway Congestion Stretches 30 Kilometers, Radio Says

A 30-kilometer long (19 miles) jam formed today on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway used to transport coal from China’s hinterlands to its eastern ports.

More than 2,000 vehicles are stuck at the Badaling section of the expressway in Hebei province, China National Radio said on its website. The congestion, about 250 kilometers northwest of downtown Beijing, began about 2 a.m. local time and came four days after the last jam, according to the report.

Traffic on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway has surged as Inner Mongolia passed Shanxi province last year to become China’s biggest coal supplier after the government shut mines in Shanxi on safety concerns. A dearth of rail capacity from Inner Mongolia to ports such as Caofeidian, Qinhuangdao and Tianjin, where coal is shipped to power plants in southern China, has forced suppliers to rely on trucks.

Traffic between Dongyanghe toll station in Hebei and Jimeng station in Inner Mongolia has come to a halt because of road works, China National Radio reported, without giving more details. The earlier jam lasted nine days and was more than 100 kilometers long, the Global Times newspaper reported on Aug. 24.

Electricity usage has surged in China as economic growth recovered to 10.3 percent in the second quarter and 11.9 percent in the first three months in 2010. That has spurred demand for coal, which fuels 80 percent of the nation’s power plants.

China has the world’s worst coal-mine safety record, with an average of seven deaths each day in accidents last year. That compares with 18 deaths for an entire year in the U.S., the second biggest coal producer after China.

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