Traffic jams on Chinese highways during the Golden Week holidays. (Photo/Xinhua)
For microblogger "Rangrang2010," driving along the expressway on her way home for China's National Day holiday took far too long.
"I started at 4 o'clock in the morning on Sept. 30, but the three-hour journey took me about six hours after my car snailed among the sporadic accidents along the car-laden expressway," the 24-year-old complained in a microblog piece.
Rangrang2010 was one of the 647 million drivers and passengers who flocked to the country's highways to go home or to tourist spots for the eight-day national holiday running from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7. The break combined both the National Day holiday and the Mid-Autumn Festival, traditionally a time for family reunions.
On Sept. 30 when Rangrang2010 left Beijing for her home in neighboring Hebei province, 24 expressways witnessed traffic congestion in 16 provinces. The roads claimed a total of 794 lives during the eight days.
Some people blamed the country's new policy making most expressways toll-free for passenger cars with fewer than seven seats during the eight-day holiday.
In August, the government decided to lift road toll charges for passenger cars driving on highways during major Chinese holidays in a bid to boost tourism consumption.
The toll-free policy will unburden the public of around 20 billion yuan (US$3.2 billion) during Golden Week, estimated Peng Zhizhong, professor of logistics management at Shandong University.
The road toll exemption can boost untapped tourism enthusiasm, and Zhang Weiguo, economics professor at the Shandong Academy of Social Sciences.
But along with Rangrang2010, thousands of passengers told of their "miserable" stories online.
"Xiaoaieluosi" expressed via his Sina Weibo account that the toll exemption was generally beneficial, but limited vacation options caused traffic pressures.
Chinese people enjoy week-long vacations mainly on traditional holidays, including the Spring Festival and National Day holiday.
Heavy traffic is a consequence of a lack of an efficient vacation-with-pay system, said Wang Degang, professor of tourism management at Shandong University. "They have no choice," said Wang.
Authorities should decentralize concentrated holidays to alleviate mounting tourism demand, said Lou Jiajun, professor of tourism at Shanghai's East China Normal University.
This opinion is shared by Jia Yuanhua, transportation professor at Beijing Jiaotong University. He told China National Radio that favorable expressway policies should be extended to working days.
Ma Guangyuan, an economist, echoed this sentiment and said that expressway toll fees should be lowered, and that toll charging years could be prolonged in order to meet high expressway maintenance expenditures.
This was the first time China has had to cope with such heavy traffic on its expressways. In a bid to ease congestion, authorities stopped collecting electronic tickets at toll gates on Oct. 4.