Gridlock as China waives tolls for holiday

Huge traffic jams occurred on many of the country's highways on Sunday, the first day of an eight-day holiday that exempts drivers of most cars from paying tolls nationwide for the first time.

The policy, aimed at alleviating holiday road congestion by giving free passage to automobiles with seven seats or less, brought more vehicles to the roads than ever before, creating severe congestion.

Sunday officially marked the Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional Chinese celebration when families get together.

On Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like micro-blogging service, a large number of photographs were posted online by private car owners who were driving out of hub cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

They showed some roads were seriously blocked, looking more like parking lots as the sheer number of vehicles created gridlock.

Song Suwei, a reporter from Songjiang TV, a local TV channel in Shanghai, posted on the Sina Weibo website that a traveler trapped on the Shanghai-Kunming Highway for more than two hours even walked his dog to kill time.

Portable toilets were set up at several sections of the highways leading out of Shanghai in order to provide relief for long-suffering drivers and their passengers.

The Beijing Traffic Management Bureau reported long lines of cars from 6 am on Sunday in front of tollgates for all 17 expressways in Beijing, as many outbound passengers hit the road before dawn.

Figures show that at the Dujiakan Tollgate on the Beijing-Shijiazhuang Highway, 17,000 vehicles had passed through by 6 am, four times the number last year.

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