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The pace of development of Beijing

Popularity 4Viewed 3946 times 2014-3-10 19:55 |Personal category:metro|System category:Life| Beijing, metro, development

When I first time visited Beijing in 2006, the city’s metro map looked very simple as the picture below. I remember it was easy for  our touring bus to go to any destination. There were cars on the streets, but not so many, that there would be excessive traffic jams. I could see people riding bicycles going to work, but not as much as I was expecting. Some of the streets were opened for construction, as the city was preparing for the 2008 Olympic Games by hectically building up the metro system. 

The first metro line, line 1, have been opened in 1969. The newest extension to it was finished in 1999. Originally, it was built as a part of military system after the Sino-Sovjet split, as a purpose to deploy military troops. The southern section of line 2, was built 1971, and was initially only for official use. In 1977, line 2 was opened to the public and 1980, for the foreigners. The rest of the loopline was finished in 1984.

Line 1 has been extended many times. First in 1992, eastwards from Fuxingmen to Xidan and further in 1999 from Xidan to Sihuidong. Line 13 was opened in two phases, in 2002 and 2003. The extension to line 1, the Batong line was opened also in 2003. 

In 2008, a month before the Olympic Games, I made a short visit to Beijing. I remember wanting to take the metro line 2 at the Beijing railway station, but it was closed, because of the last minute construction work. The tourist maps were outdated, as the city’s infrastructure was in big change.

In 2009, when I arrived to the city, the metro already looked like as the picture below. The line 4 was just about to open in September same year. I remember the first months in line 4, when there were always seats and only few people travelling. The crowds were still mostly in the buses, on the third ring road, and on line 1. On the streets, you couldn’t see so many parked cars, as the cars were constantly running on the streets. Even after the line 4 was introduced, it was still easy to remember all the station names, and locate yourself on the metro map. I even draw the metromap by myself to a size A6 notebook.

After 2010, new metro lines have been opened at the pace that it is difficult to follow. Travelling under the city has become the only way to reach the destination in a scheduled timetable. There are cars everywhere. According the officials, about the number of registered cars in Beijing, the 5 million pole was already passed in 2012. It is estimated, that the city will have 6 million cars by 2016. The metrolines move daily over 10 million people and as the lines are extensively expanding, there are plans for 19 lines and over 708 km of track in operation by 2015.

The amount of population in Beijing is always a tough question, because of the huge amount of the temporary residents. However, in 2006 it was estimated that there was around 13 million people in Beijing. Nowadays, the official number is almost 21 million, and some unofficial estimates reach up to 30 million permanent and temporary residents.

Nowadays, the changes are so fast. Almost each time taking the metro you notice some newly opened stations. Even the line 10 as a whole loop feels already so familiar, that you don't even think about it has been only a half loop.

To cheer you up in the end of this post, a map of the planned metrolines for 2015. I feel the time frame might be a bit tight, but you should never underestimate Chinese.


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report Dr.Bill.Shen 2014-3-11 04:23
Great chronicle documents! Route 1 was the first subway line in China for many, many years. It is an antique. The faire was 0.10 RMB if I remember correctly in 1980s.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-3-11 04:26
In 2008, surely you also took a short ride on line 8? The Olympic line of only a few stops opened for the Games. It was busy one minute, virtually deserted next. - after the Games. Eventually it was extended and now more useful. Beijing has a massive current subway network, but officially, right now, Shanghai has the largest! Go Shanghai!
Reply Report voice_cd 2014-3-11 18:24
Thanks for sharing your story here! We have highlighted your story to the homepage.
Reply Report Smile-Yilia 2014-3-12 04:44
There is no doubt that Beijing has been developing so fast. It is a pity  that I haven't been there yet, so thank you for your introduction. One day I have enough money ,I will visit Beijing.
Reply Report youxiudeyou 2014-3-12 16:23
ColinSpeakman, actually the line 8 still remains unvisited if I remember right. Last time in the subway I just realized they connected it with line 6. Now it seems more or less like a tourist line with museum of Art, 鼓楼大街, 后海 and the Olympic park.
Reply Report youxiudeyou 2014-3-12 16:25
Smile-Yilia: There is no doubt that Beijing has been developing so fast. It is a pity  that I haven't been there yet, so thank you for your introduction. One day I ...
Smille-Yilia, you're welcome! I would be happy to guide you!
Reply Report youxiudeyou 2014-3-17 22:22
In 1971, when the trial period started, only members of the public with credential letters from their work units were allowed to enter into the metro. Single fare was set at ¥0.10. The initial line was opened to full public use in 1981. In 1987 fares doubled to ¥0.20 for single rides and ¥ 0.30 for transfers. In 1991, single ticket price was raised to ¥0.50. In 1996, fares rose to ¥2.00 and again to ¥3.00 for single ticket and ¥5.00 for transfer ticket in year 2000. In 2007, when line 5 was opened, the single flat fare ticket of¥2.00 with unlimited rides was introduced. This year, Beijing municipal government has decided to increase the subway fare, so it seems the flat fare era of ¥2.00 is coming to an end.

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  • My year 2015, a year of changes 2016-1-3 13:01

    youxiudeyou: Yes, we were playing the 八路军, communists fighting against Japanese.
    Very impressive. Yan'an was the headquarter of 8RA. In those days, there were quite a number of American expatriates working there. They were from US Army (military consultants and observers) as well as resident correspondents from US press including Edgar Snow, Anna Louise Strong, Agnes Smedley, etc. During the period between 1937 and 1945, Mao told the whole nation and the world via Reuters that the United States of America was the light tower and the world model from whom we should learn democracy and liberty. When he took the power in 1949, he changed his face and turned to learn things from Stalin. No consistency.

  • My year 2015, a year of changes 2016-1-2 21:30

    voice_cd: Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted it in our blog homepage.
    Thanks for highlighting, would be nice to write more often.

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