Beijingers cheer opening of north-south subway line

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2007, 12:00am

New line expected to ease traffic congestion, air pollution

Yesterday may have been the last day of the week-long National Day holiday but for many people in the capital there was a party atmosphere as they celebrated the opening of Beijing's No 5 subway line.

Hundreds of people waited outside the entrance to the new line at Yonghegong station, one of the transfer stations for the No 2 line, an hour before the first train set off at 2pm. Holding cameras and mobile phones they excitedly took pictures against the background of an illuminated board reading 'To No 5 Line'.

The crowd, most of them there just for the ride, spontaneously counted down the last few seconds and then flooded onto the platform when the entrance opened.

Luan Ye , a 56-year-old retired worker, was one of those trying out the first train.

'It's extremely convenient. I live in Hepingli and the line has a station there. Beijing had no such line running from the south to the north before. Now I can take a trip over 20km away at a cost of only 2 yuan,' she said.

Beijing has announced it would cut the price of subway tickets to 2 yuan for any single journey, except for the airport express line which is still under construction. The price cuts took effect yesterday. In the past, the ticket price for the No 1, 2 and 13 lines was 3 yuan and a trip on the Batong line cost 2 yuan.

In a bid to ease congestion and improve air quality Beijing has paid 1.3 billion yuan to subsidise public transport companies after the city lowered bus ticket prices earlier this year. It will also earmark 1 billion yuan from fiscal revenue to subsidise the subway tickets annually from 2008.

But Wang Zhong , a 32-year-old company engineer, said he was worried about the low price.

'The cost of tickets is low. I'm afraid the carriages might be overcrowded during the week. It's already very crowded today. I couldn't hear the broadcasts and my line of sight to the screen was blocked so I couldn't tell what the next station was,' he said.

Mr Wang has other reasons to be happy, however. 'Housing prices have risen by 3,000 yuan to 5,000 yuan per square metre in my residential area compared to the price I paid for my apartment in August.'

The Beijing media reported that property prices along the line have been rising by thousands of yuan per square metre in the past few months.

Xu Guozheng , who is confined to a wheelchair, was among the few unsatisfied customers.

'It's still inconvenient for people like me. The publicity pamphlet said the new stations would have lifts but subway staff told me they were not currently in use. My sons have to help me to climb up and down the flights of stairs,' he said.

Wang Fang was also unhappy. 'I was eager to use the moving walkway in the Chongwenmen transfer station but it didn't work. I also encountered two abnormal stops between stations, each lasting three minutes. There was no announcement to give the reason.'

The company responsible for running Beijing's subways has said the trial operation would last for a year and passengers' patience and understanding were appreciated.

Picking up the tab

The amount, in yuan, the capital will spend on subway ticket subsidies each year 1b