By Rachel Yan | 2012-10-5 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
EXPRESSWAY gridlock across the country was eased after emergency measures were taken to allow vehicles to pass toll gates without stopping as of noon yesterday, the fifth day of the eight-day National Day holiday.
Scenic sites, however, have been overwhelmed by throngs of visitors, triggering complaints and criticism by tourists and online citizens alike.
From noon yesterday, vehicles with less than seven seats were allowed to pass through expressway toll gates without getting and submitting toll-free cards, according to the Ministry of Communications.
The measure was taken to offset serious traffic gridlock as major expressways nationwide are going toll free for passenger cars this week for the first time.
The new measure enabled traffic to flow two to three times faster on major expressways, according to the China National Radio.
In Beijing, long queues that stretched for kilometers at the toll gates on Sunday were gone yesterday. Vehicles were able to keep an average speed of about 50 kilometers per hour on all highways and expressways, according to the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau.
Back in Shanghai, cars were allowed to pass toll booths without stopping as of 10am at all toll gates - two hours earlier than allowed nationally. Traffic was clear yesterday on major expressways.
However, a three-car pileup was reported at the Shanghai-Chengdu Expressway at about 11am yesterday, causing a 5-kilometer traffic jam.
Shanghai's expressway authority also announced yesterday that a minimal fee of 5 yuan (79 US cents), the lowest fee charge, will be collected from 12am to 2am on October 8, the first two hours after the toll-free policy expires.
Tourism spots, however, were still packed. The 119 major scenic spots across the country registered 5.69 million tourists by 5pm yesterday, an increase of 25 percent over the same day a year ago.
More than 30 popular tourist destinations reported tourist volumes that doubled their capacity yesterday. Dr Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, ranked as the most crowded place by handling a visitor volume 10 times its capacity yesterday, according to the state tourism administration's daily report.
Gulangyu in the southeast coastal city of Xiamen, Mogao Grottoes in the northwestern Dunhuang and the Palace Museum in Beijing followed on the most packed list, the report said.
In Shanghai, visitors to the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall said that they were pushed forward by the crowd. "I don't even need to walk by myself," said one of the tourists surnamed Wang.
Tourists complained that no one alerted them about the crowds.
About 2,000 tourists were stranded at a cable car station on Huashan Mountain in northwest China's Shaanxi Province on Tuesday afternoon, Weng Peng, an official from Huashan's management committee, told Xinhua news agency.
Some of the tourists protested and asked for a refund after waiting in line for more than three hours at the cable car's return gate, Weng said.
During the commotion, a woman from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was stabbed twice in the back and her husband also received knife wounds in the head, the husband wrote on a microblog. He and others also posted pictures of their injuries. Witnesses said the scenic spot's security guards stabbed the tourists. Huashan's management authority, however, denied the suspects were staff members. Police are investigating the case.
Some managers have forsaken their duties for economic benefit, according to Wang Degang, dean of the tourism management department of Shandong University. "It is deceitful to continue to sell tickets after a scenic area's visitor volume has reached capacity,'' Wang told Xinhuas.