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Traffic restrictions lifted in some areas of Beijing

The odd-even license plate rule brought in to keep cars off the streets of Beijing during the Olympics will be lifted in some areas from Thursday, the city's traffic management bureau said yesterday.

The rule will no longer apply on roads outside the Fifth Ring, with the exceptions of the airport highway and certain sections of the Badaling and Beijing-Chengde expressways, it said.

The regulation was introduced on July 20 to ease congestion and reduce pollution during the Olympics and Paralympics, the bureau said, adding that it was always designed to have two phases.

The first phase, from July 20 until tomorrow, limited the city's 3.3 million private cars to alternate days on the road, according to whether they had even- or odd-numbered license plates.

The second phase, from Thursday until Sept 20, will retain the odd-and-even license plate rule on roads within the Fifth Ring, including the airport highway, the Badaling expressway from Shangqing Overpass to Xiguan Huandao and the Beijing-Chengde expressway, the bureau said.

Chen Daping, who lives in the Yizhuang area of Beijing, said: "It will be a pleasure to be able to go on family outings to the city suburbs regardless of my license plate number."

Also, as lifting the ban outside the Fifth Ring will heighten traffic pressure in downtown areas of the city, all Olympic lanes will reopen to traffic on Thursday, the bureau said.

However, Beijing residents are still encouraged to take public transportation to ease congestion, it said.

Twenty-four of the 34 Olympic bus routes closed on Sunday, Beijing Public Transport Holdings, Ltd, said.

Route 8, which runs from the Olympic bus depot to Wukesong Bridge, and route 20, from Shunyi Yancao Denggang to Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, will close tomorrow, it said.

Eight Olympic bus routes will continue to operate until the end of the Paralympics.(