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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 December 2006, 19:28 GMT
China to tackle Olympic pollution
Cars in central Beijing
Roads in central Beijing are often severely congested
Beijing is to invest heavily in public transport ahead of the 2008 Olympics in a bid to cut pollution, officials say.

The road network is to be improved and the subway system extended, a spokesman for Beijing's transport body said.

City authorities also plan to issue new bus and rail passes, with a special version planned for foreign visitors. Car use may be banned during the games.

The International Olympic Committee has said it expects smog-choked Beijing to improve its poor air quality.

IOC officials are due to visit the city in January to make a progress report on its preparations.

Rapid growth

Olympic organisers in Beijing are already taking action to reduce air pollution from traffic congestion and heavy industry.

Beijing 2008
Olympic officials are due to check on Beijing's progress in January

However, the number of private vehicles in particular is increasing at a rapid rate, says the BBC's Alex Capstick, causing traffic jams and a choking atmosphere.

Liu Xiaoming, a spokesman for Beijing's transport commission, said spending would be increased in the run-up to the 2008 games in a bid to encourage public transport use.

He said the new bus and rail passes would be introduced early in 2007 and that the system was designed to be easier for foreign visitors to use.

By the end of last year, about 29% of commuters used public transport, Mr Liu said, a slight increase on the figures for 2000.

However, the number of people choosing to commute by private car has grown even more quickly, up from about 23% to almost 30% in five years.

The number of privately registered cars in Beijing, currently standing at just under 3 million, is expected to increase by a third by 2010.

City authorities experimented last month with a ban on car use, imposing a range of measures during the China-Africa summit which they said removed 30% of vehicles from the roads.

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