Beijing subway seizes up as traffic taken off road

BEIJING Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:13am EDT

1 of 2. Passengers crowd a train inside a station of the Subway Line Number 1 during rush hour in Beijing July 21,2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

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BEIJING (Reuters) - One of Beijing's most important subway lines seized up on Monday when workers closed off entrances on the first working day of pre-Olympic traffic restrictions.

Passengers were being allowed off Line 2, which runs in a loop around central Beijing, but not on to it. At least one major transfer station, at Jianguomen, was closed.

"There is a big crush of passengers. We've had to close the line for safety reasons," said a subway worker, standing in front of locked gates at the Fuxingmen station, a transfer point for Line 1.

The subway company could not be reached for comment, but the official Xinhua news agency later cited Jia Peng, an official with the subway company, as saying that the delays had been caused by problems with the signal system.

"Services were delayed, but not because there were too many passengers. We've seen even more passengers in the past," Xinhua quoted Jia as saying.

Another main line, Line 1, was closed for nearly 20 minutes on Monday afternoon after a woman jumped from the platform onto the tracks, Xinhua said.

The woman was later pulled up from the tracks, Xinhua cited a spokesman with the subway company as saying. It did not elaborate on why she jumped or whether she had been injured.

Monday marked the first working day of emergency traffic curbs that aim to take half of all cars off the road by utilizing an odd-even number plate system. Streets were noticeably quieter, but still busy during the morning rush hour.

Under the new rules, which began on Sunday, cars are banned on alternate days depending on their license plate number and most official cars have been impounded. Only taxis, buses and Olympic vehicles are exempt.

The government hopes to take around 60 percent of the city's 3.3 million cars off the roads, Xinhua reported, and reduce emissions by two-thirds over the two months until the end of the Paralympic Games in mid-September.

The city's chronic pollution has been one of the biggest headaches for Beijing Olympic Games organizers, who are banking on the car bans and last minute factory closures to bring blue skies and easy breathing for athletes.

Three new subway lines opened over the weekend, including an express link to the airport, to help take up the burden from the traffic controls.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Jason Subler; Editing by Paul

Tait)

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