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Public Forum to Discuss Cutting Subway Fares

A meeting will be held in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of reducing subway fares in a bid to encourage more people to use public transport.

The municipal transportation administration bureau has offered two proposals: Either lower the price of a one-way ticket to 2 yuan (25 cents) or adopt a flexible pricing scheme ranging from 2-4 yuan according to the distance traveled.

The preferred first option will cut prices by a third and benefit about 80 percent of passengers, Zhang Wanheng from the Beijing municipal development and reform commission said.

"The new prices are designed to get more people out of private cars and onto the public transportation system," he said.

The commission said 25 people will take part in the hearing, including government officials, transport experts and members of the public. Other locals can apply to watch.

The proposed price cuts have been well received by the public.

Li Jing, a housewife, said: "News of a price reduction is great after always hearing about food and house prices going up all the time. I just hope it is a long-term policy and not just a temporary thing."

A source close to the commission said the subsidies will cost the local government 1 billion yuan (US$133 million) a year.

With the Olympic Games now less than a year away, authorities in the capital have invested heavily in the city's metro system.

Currently, three lines are under construction and a fourth is scheduled to break earth by the end of the year, a spokesperson for the Beijing municipal institute of city planning & design, said.

More than 100 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, took part in the country's first-ever official "Car-Free Day" on Saturday, which was held to raise people's awareness of energy saving and environmental protection.

(China Daily September 22, 2007)

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