Year of the Snake sparks traffic surge
The China Post news staffTAIPEI, Taiwan -- The freeway and rail networks were inundated yesterday afternoon as people across Taiwan and on its outlying islands started heading home for the traditional Lunar New Year holiday family reunion.
February 9, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
The National Freeway Bureau said freeways saw a surge in vehicles beginning in the midafternoon, with southbound traffic on the National Freeway No. 1 from Taipei to Neili in Taoyuan County flowing as expected.
The average speed slowed down slightly but there were no reports of serious traffic congestion, which the bureau said was due to various measures adopted to cope with the anticipated traffic rush, including increased staffers, such as those to operate toll booths and guide traffic.
The severest congestion occurred at around 7 p.m. on the southbound sections between Changhua City and Yuanlin Township in Central Taiwan, and between Yonkang District and downtown Tainan in the south, with speeds reduced to around 40 kilometers per hour.
Recently resigned Premier Sean Chen personally visited the traffic control center and was given a briefing on the freeway bureau's preparations to deal with traffic surges during the holidays.
Starting yesterday, some 1,900 bureau staffers and freeway police officers will be on duty every day during the peak holiday traffic period, said Bureau Director-General Tseng Dar-jen.
Tseng said he expected more vehicles on the freeway system today and, based on last year's traffic flow, forecast the heaviest traffic for between Feb. 11 (the day after Lunar New Year's Day) and Feb. 13.
Tseng predicted traffic volume will peak on Feb. 12, adding that both southbound and northbound lanes on Taiwan's freeways are likely to be jammed by vehicles on sightseeing outings.
Starting today and lasting for all nine days of the Feb. 9-17 holiday, tolls will not be collected on the country's freeways from midnight to 7 a.m., to encourage motorists to travel during off-peak hours.
High occupancy vehicle controls will also be in place during peak travel hours on freeway sections deemed most vulnerable to traffic jams.
Such controls will be enforced from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. today on the southbound section of Freeway No. 1 between Taipei's Neihu District and Miaoli County's Toufen Township, and on the southbound section of National Freeway No. 3 between Taipei's Muzha District and Hsinchu City's Xiangshan District.
Similar controls, which require vehicles to be carrying at least three people will also be in place on these freeway sections on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14.
The same measure will be imposed between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the northbound section of Freeway No. 1 between Kaohsiung and Xiangshan and on the northbound section of Freeway No. 3 between Pingtung County in the south and Daxi in North Taiwan's Taoyuan County.
The controls will also apply on the same two days on northbound entrances on the Suao-Toucheng section of Freeway No. 5 between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.