BEIJING Drivers in China's capital Beijing may have to pay to drive their cars in the near future, as part of measures the government will introduce to fight ever-worsening traffic gridlock in the city, local media said on Thursday.
Beijing's policy incentives helped propel China pass the United States as the world's biggest auto market in 2009, but the worsening air quality and traffic have now become a hazard in major Chinese cities.
By 2012, Beijing alone will have 7 million vehicles on the road, rising sharply from 4.7 million now, the National Business Daily said, citing statistics provided by the municipal transportation authorities.
The usage-based toll scheme will be part of a series of measures the municipal government may take to ease traffic congestion, the newspaper said, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
Other measures could include each Beijing resident being allowed to buy only one car while non-Beijing residents must own an apartment and get a parking permit before they are allowed to buy a vehicle, the newspaper said.
So far, nothing has been finalized yet, but Beijing transportation authorities may release a draft rule next Monday to solicit public opinion, it said.
To help rein in congestion, the Shanghai government stepped in years ago mandating that people pay a fee of roughly 30,000 yuan ($4,506) for each car they owned.
A total of 14.7 million vehicles have been sold in China in the first 10 months, official data showed. Vehicle sales could well exceed 17 million for the whole year, up from 13.6 million units in 2009.
(Reporting by Fang Yan and Ken Wills; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)