China’s Toll-Free Holiday Roads Cut Traffic Jams Nationwide

China eliminated tolls on its nationwide highway network for most passenger vehicles for the annual Lunar New Year holiday in a move meant to reduce traffic congestion during the planet’s biggest human migration.

China Central Television’s news channel showed scenes of smooth-flowing traffic on highways in the country’s heavily populated eastern provinces today. Cars with seven seats or less will be able to ride toll free from today through Feb. 15, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Most of China’s major highways are dotted with toll booths, and in previous years they became the source of delays as traffic backed up waiting to pay the fees. Xinhua cited one Beijing resident as saying he will save more than 200 yuan ($32) in toll fees returning to his hometown in central China’s Henan province tomorrow.

Icy weather this week has hindered New Year travel. Snow and rain led to 4,680 traffic accidents in Shanghai as of the late evening on Feb. 7. At least 13 people were killed in collisions on an icy expressway in central Hunan province yesterday, Xinhua reported.

Most of the northern part of China was clear today, the China Meteorological Association reported on its website, with freezing rain continuing in the southern provinces of Guizhou, Hunan and Jiangxi and snow tapering off elsewhere.

A record 3.41 billion passenger trips may be made this year during the Lunar New Year period, Xinhua reported on Feb. 5, citing the National Development and Reform Commission. Today, the eve of Lunar New Year, the Ministry of Railways expects 3.54 million people to ride trains, down from 6.11 million yesterday, Xinhua reported today. The country’s airlines have the capacity to transport 35.5 million passengers in the 40-day holiday period that began Jan. 26 and runs through March 6, Xinhua said.

Trains are set to record 225 million trips during the holiday, Xinhua reported.

— With assistance by Michael Forsythe

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