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China's top steel city to cut traffic over winter in smog war

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Tangshan, China's biggest steel-producing city, will impose restrictions on traffic over the winter months to reduce smog, the local government said on Tuesday, part of efforts to meet politically crucial 2017 air quality targets.

Routinely listed among China's top 10 smoggiest cities, Tangshan in Hebei province is on the frontline of the government's war on pollution, and is under pressure to cut emissions of small, breathable particles known as PM2.5 by 22 percent over the winter months.

The city government said in a notice that new traffic restrictions will go into effect on Nov 1. Like Beijing, they will be based on registration numbers. Each day, cars with licence plates ending with certain numbers will be banned from Tangshan's main roads.

Emergency service vehicles, including ambulances, police cars and fire engines, will be exempt from the restrictions, and fuel and fresh food delivery trucks with special permits will also be free to drive into the city centre.

Tangshan, which produces around 100 million tonnes of steel a year, will impose production caps in the steel sector and shut ceramic and cement factories over winter. Earlier in October, it was also forced to impose winter industrial output cuts a month earlier than scheduled after adverse weather conditions triggered smog warnings.

Curbing mobile pollution sources is a key part of northern China's efforts to improve air quality, with vehicles in Beijing accounting for as much as 31 percent of total PM2.5 emissions, according to environment ministry data published in January.

The Beijing city government said in a new action plan published earlier this month that it would aim to cut 2015 levels of vehicle pollution by more than 20 percent by the end of the decade.

It also said it would ensure 70 percent of its public transportation fleet consisted of clean or new energy vehicles by the end of 2020.

Trucks have been a major source of pollution in the capital, and Fang Li, director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, told reporters on Tuesday that the city had punished 16,000 drivers for excessive emissions in the first three quarters of the year.

He said Beijing has also banned trucks that do not comply with China's National III diesel standards.

(Reporting by David Stanway and Muyu Xu; Editing by Joseph Radford)