The Beijing subway system, while not the longest in the world, moves the most people every day. If the entire population of Sweden rode the Beijing subway in a single day, the traffic would still be lighter than on an average weekday. Everyone in Ireland could ride twice and not break the record day for passengers – over 11 million people on April 30, 2014. But despite its world-famous reputation for crowds and construction, the Beijing Subway still has its secrets. Starting with…
1. It’s older than you think
The Beijing Subway is old–older than the metro systems of Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Hong Kong. Line 1 opened in October 1969 to much fanfare, but only a month later, an electrical fire along a section of track injured more than 100 people and destroyed two cars. Due to persistent technical problems and natural disasters, it was a decade before construction began on Line 2. For 20 years, the people of Beijing only had two subway lines. All that ended in 2002, when Line 13’s opening marked the beginning of Beijing’s love affair with its subway.
2. There are restricted access “ghost stations”
Many subways around the world have ghost stations–stations that were once open to the public, but have fallen out of use or have restricted access. Beijing is no exception, and boasts three ghost stations, all along Line 1. The most famous is Fushouling, which is one station beyond the current end of the line. Three of the four entrances are sealed with cement, but the final station leads to a complex for the Metro Drivers’ Vocational School and is still in use. The other two were previously part of Line 1, but now fall within the Beijing Military Region outside the city.
3. It’s dangerous to be a construction worker
Since 2000, 15 workers have died constructing the Beijing subway. The most deadly incident was in 2007, when the construction site of Suzhoujie station on Line 10 collapsed, burying six workers. More recently in 2010, tunnels under Line 9 flooded, killing two workers. Fortunately for passengers, once new lines are open and operational, Beijing boasts some of the highest metro safety ratings.
4. By 2020 the number of stations will more than double
Construction in Beijing is feverish in all sectors, but the subway’s growth is simply unprecedented. Even with 17 operating lines and 232 stations as of 2014, the Beijing Public Transportation Company announced that by 2020, total miles of track will soar from 465 km (289 miles) to 1,050 km (650 miles). The number of stations will also double, with the expansion of current lines and the opening of a half dozen new lines.
5. It’s one of the cheapest in the world
Every few months, Beijing residents fret about news of increasing subway fees, but the current flat fee of two RMB (about .30 USD) makes the Beijing subway one of the cheapest in the world. Many cities with cheaper fares often don’t employ a flat fee, so rides on the Cairo or Delhi subways might have a lower base rate, but longer ride could become far more expensive. The good news is that even increasing the fee by a few RMB, it will still remain in the bottom quarter of subway prices worldwide. Since the subway currently runs at a deficit of 600 million RMB, a fare increase looks increasingly inevitable.
Image courtesy of kouchi on Flickr. (x)