Local Transport Themes in China and Lessons from International Experience

Local Transport Themes in China and Lessons from International Experience


Jonathan Spear, Atkins, UK


An overview of the transport policy and planning challenges facing China.


The emergence of China as a global power is likely to represent one of the major economic, social and political developments of the 21st Century. Following reforms in the early 1990s, the country is experiencing a scale of urbanisation and economic development virtually without precedent in modern times. This is giving rise to a range of major policy and technical challenges for urban planners, both within China and internationally.

Nowhere are these challenges more pressing than in the transport sector. Whilst vehicle ownership remains low by international standards, many Chinese cities are experiencing annual rates of traffic growth well in excess of those seen in Europe. With inherited infrastructure deficits in terms of strategic and local transport provision, this is already giving rise to acute levels of congestion, road casualties and pollution which undermine urban quality of life and in time will threaten the economic development sought by local, provincial and national levels of the Government.

This paper explores the current challenges for local transport planning in urban China and how different cities are responding to these. It is argued that Chinese planners have the opportunity to learn from the long experience (positive and negative) of growing car ownership and traffic in Europe and apply combinations of solutions which both provide additional capacity to support urban growth whilst managing demand effectively. This will ensure that the benefits of infrastructure investment are ?locked in? for the future and engineered to be environmentally sustainable.

Much of the paper will be based on transport strategy work undertaken in the cities of Nanjing and Wuhan in Central China. Comparisons will be drawn with London, a city of broadly equivalent population, and other relevant examples in Europe. The intention is not to provide a definitive solution to the problems identified, but provide delegates with a contrasting perspective from their own experience and prompt a debate over best practice beyond the traditional UK horizons.


Association for European Transport