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The road to hell
A motorway near Beijing is currently experiencing the world’s longest (in every sense of the word) traffic jam.
August 25, 2010 5:07 by kippreport
“In a list of the top places to spend the summer, a motorway just outside Beijing beneath a pall of smog and battered by ferocious heat would probably not feature.” So says the Independent, referring to the fact that a large number of motorists in China have found themselves with little choice. For five days, they have been stuck in the world’s worst traffic jam.
The jam, caused by the heavy volume of traffic on the road and necessary road works, is 60 miles long and expected to last, at the very least, until the end of the month. Drivers wash themselves by the roadside in the heat, play cards to pass the time, and truckers sleep under their lorries. Every once in a while they start up the engine, roll forward a few inches, then stop again.
The jam has come about in part thanks to the transport of raw materials in the country – more specifically coal, which accounts for 69 percent of primary energy in China, and for which the motorway in question is a key thoroughfare. The damage done to the road by these huge trucks needs repairing, but at the same time the traffic volume keeps growing.
The bizarre situation has brought out the entrepreneurial spirit in local people, who have come from nearby villages to sell basic provisions to the stranded motorists. But their motives are far from charitable – most are reportedly selling food at vastly inflated sums. And some drivers have become targets for criminals – in response the authorities have posted some 400 officers to help manage the jam.
This epic delay gives Kipp an unexpected new appreciation for Dubai’s efforts. The China jam is ultimately a result of the country’s rapid economic development combined with an infrastructure that can’t keep pace. With its own rapid economic growth, Dubai has had its troubles, but as far as we know no one ever spent over a week in a traffic jam.
Perhaps Dubai is far better at managing traffic than any of us realized?