Beijing motorists turn to hand-pulled ferry to beat rush-hour traffic

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It can transport only one car at a time but drivers commuting from nearby town can save nearly an hour on their trip

There have been plenty of high-tech solutions to tackle gridlock self-driving cars, analysis of traffic patterns but some drivers in Beijing have gone the other way, crossing a river on a hand-pulled wooden ferry, one car at a time.

In an effort to shave nearly an hour off their trip, the Chinese capitals commuters are increasingly shuttling across a 50-metre-wide river on a raft built out of two metal boat hulls and a handful of wooden planks, according to the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper.

The ferry trip across the Chaobai river takes only 10 minutes, but only one car can cross each time. The motorless vessel is powered by its operator, Li Lian, who pulls it across the water with a cable strung between the two banks of the river.

About 300,000 people commute between Beijing and Yanjiao, a town just outside the city limits, and two bridges that cross the same river as the ferry are at a near-standstill during rush hour.

An aerial view of the trip. Photograph: Imaginechina/Rex/Shutterstock

Li has been operating the ferry for 30 years, and now makes about 350 a month, charging each passenger 1.15 per trip. He works in a two-man team, with each taking a 12-hour shift.

The capital of China is famous for its huge traffic jams. In the most notorious case, cars and trucks stretched for 95km in gridlock that lasted more than 10 days in 2010.

A more frequent nightmare is the massive queues that pop up of drivers commuting into Beijing from neighbouring Hebei province, with thick acrid smog that often shrouds the city exacerbating the problem.

Beijings millions of cars are a major contributor to the citys smog, and congestion is so bad police restrict car use every day of the week based on the final digit of a cars licence plate.

Car ownership in China has skyrocketed following the countrys economic boom and growing middle class. Beijing has nearly 6m registered cars, double the number of vehicles in London.

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