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Qingming holiday sees high traffic, prices

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Yesterday marked the beginning of the Qingming Festival long weekend, with the populace experiencing traffic congestion and soaring prices on groceries as families embark on holiday excursions and journeys to pay respect at the tombs of their ancestors.

Traffic Sees Moderate Congestion

Spurred on by temperate climate conditions, the National Freeway systems saw congestion from heavy traffic yesterday morning. In the section from Hukou (湖口) to Chubei (竹北) on National Freeway No.1, traffic crawled at 34 kilometers per hour. On the southbound Hsueshan Tunnel (雪山隧道) off National Freeway No. 5, traffic slowed to the pace of 50kph.

The Taiwan Area National Highway Bureau (高工局) estimated yesterday's traffic volume at 2.3 million to 2.5 million vehicles, a figure less than the 2.7 million expected. The bureau stated that traffic conditions remained relatively smoother throughout yesterday morning and all major routes maintained speed at around 80kph.

The bureau, however, stated that in addition to the aforementioned routes, National Freeway No. 3 saw slower traveling speeds due to heavy traffic volumes.

In an attempt to avoid a repeat of heavy delays that plagued motorists during the 228 Memorial long weekend, stringent five-phase highway on-ramp control measures were initiated, said the bureau. With traffic control measures in effect, vehicles were barred from accessing the freeways until heavy congestion stretching for more than 10 kilometers subsided.

  The most severe traffic control measure of the five-phased system was not employed yesterday, as traffic volume remained relatively manageable, said the bureau. The less-than-expected traffic volume may have been due to an extensive awareness campaign urging motorists to visit their ancestral tombs ahead of the holidays a week ago and enjoy a 20 percent discount on toll fees. As a result, highway traffic last week increased by 15 percent over the norm, dispersing a portion of traffic volume that would have added to congestion yesterday, the bureau said.

Fruit, Meat Prices Surge

Meanwhile, the Council of Agriculture stated that the average price of fruit has surged 10 to 20 percent year-on-year and that prices may remain high until May, when summer season fruits go on the market.

The council stated that high fruit prices this year were exacerbated by an especially unseasonably cold winter that hampered production output.

Recent high prices also coincide with the high demand season of the Qingming Festival, as households stock up on fruits for offerings to ancestral tombs. The bureau urged consumers to turn toward fruits with more stable prices, such as bananas, papayas, guavas and pineapples.

The price of chicken recently rose to NT$51 per 600 grams in the high demand season, with the wholesale price of pork rising to NT$81.53 per kilogram, to the dismay of household shoppers. The Council of agriculture expects prices to return to seasonal averages following the conclusion of the Qingming Festival holidays.

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Southbound traffic along National Freeway No. 5 slows to a crawl, with some sections seeing speeds as low as 20 kilometers per hour, in Hsinchu, yesterday. Despite heavy delays at a few hotspots, traffic conditions remained relatively manageable, according to the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau.

(CNA)

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