In what has been described as the worst traffic jam in history, thousands of drivers on the Beijing-Tibet expressway just outside the Chinese capital of Beijing have been snarled since 14 August due to road works, heavy traffic and breakdowns – and the disruption is expected to last a further month.
The tailbacks stretched for a mind-boggling 100km as on Monday, and 400 police officers have been assigned to the area to quell rising tensions.
The situation has now "basically returned to normal," state television said, though the situation on the ground seems to belie these assurances. The vehicles affected are mostly lorries bound for Beijing. The motorway, part of the Beijing-Tibet expressway, is heavily used by trucks carrying coal from Inner Mongolia.
There has been a boom in road building in China in recent years but vehicle use has soared at the same time.
The stalled traffic stretched between Jining in Inner Mongolia and Huai'an in Hebei province, north-west of Beijing, said the Global Times. The road works, which were obstructing traffic are necessary to repair damage caused by an increase in cargo lorries using the highway, the state-run newspaper said. They are not expected to be finished until mid-September.
The drivers have complained that locals are over-charging them for food and drink while they were stuck, with impromptu vendors said to be charging exorbitant prices for tea and noodles. Meanwhile, drivers resigned to their fate are reported to be passing the time with games of chess or cards. Some have requested concerts be performed on roadside verges.
Road-weary residents of Sao Paolo are similarly resourceful in dealing with their regular mega-jams, which are said to be the worst in the world. Men shave, women apply makeup, couples canoodle and the thirsty simply lock their car doors and head to the nearest cafe.
Keeping calm and relaxed when caught in a jam is a skill few have ever mastered, but the hypnotist Paul McKenna recommends an exercise called the "calm anchor". "Remember a time when you felt really, really calm – at peace and in control," he writes in Control Stress. "Return to it now, seeing what you saw, hearing what you heard and feeling how good you felt." Or if all else fails, just do as a cab driver would: tune into Magic FM.