In November, more than 70 trainee drivers were hired to crew Beijing’s 40 ART MK II airport express trains – carriages specifically designed for driverless use. In preparation for the Olympics, the city paid Canadian firm Bombardier US$44 million for the technology. Asked what exactly drivers are being hired to do, Beijing Mass Transit subsidiary said, “It’s a secret for the moment. We’ll talk about it when the time comes.”
No car restrictions
Olympic planners ruled out any limits on the number of private cars allowed on Beijing streets during the games. “Instead, we will encourage citizens to use their cars more rationally and sparingly,” said Liu Xiaoming, deputy head of Beijing’s transportation committee. Beijing had 3.08 million registered motor vehicles as of August 2007 and car exhaust is thought to be a major threat to the city’s “green” games.
Ticket request overload
In late October, the second batch of Olympic tickets went on sale across the country, resulting in over 8 million requests that overwhelmed the ticketing system. The sale was the first opportunity for Chinese citizens to ensure seats for the games after 1.6 million of the 7 million tickets being sold were allocated in a lottery earlier this year. Olympic organizers said they were making efforts to improve the system.
A home-grown Chinese navigation system similar to global positioning system (GPS) called Beidou will be used during to Olympics to tell drivers real-time traffic conditions around the city. Beidou relies on a cluster of five satellites separately sent into orbit to track traffic patterns. More launches are planned for 2008.
A US$3.65 billion expansion of Beijing’s Capital Airport passed its final inspection in late December, marking the near conclusion for the 45-month project. A new airport tower will begin construction in February, and after the final phase is complete, the airport will have a capacity of 35 million passengers annually.