Commuters take advantage of lower fares

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am

Rush-hour commuters in Beijing packed trains along the main subway line yesterday as more people took advantage of a flat 2-yuan ticket fee and a new subway line.

The north-south No 5 subway line came into operation on Sunday, the same day prices dropped from 3 yuan to 2 yuan for any single journey on the No1, 2 and 13 lines.

This follows a city-wide cut in bus fares at the beginning of the year and makes Beijing's public transport system the cheapest in the country.

Most commuters applauded the new fares, despite having concerns about the sudden surge in commuter flow.

'I used to be able to get on the subway once I arrived. But today I have already missed two trains,' said Fan Lixia , who works at the Dongdang station, where No1 and the new No5 meet.

Despite being squashed against other passengers in the carriage, Ms Fan said she would still take the subway because it was the only form of transport guaranteed to get her to work on time. She could now save 4 yuan a day, half her original travel expenses.

'Hopefully, with trains arriving more frequently and with the opening of more subway lines, the situation will improve,' she said.

Another passenger who gave her name as Ms Li was less happy. 'The reduced fare benefits those who travel on the underground occasionally, but not us who travel on a monthly pass,' she said.

Ms Li paid 60 yuan for her monthly pass, a heavily subsidised scheme that is slowly becoming obsolete with the introduction in 2003 of Octopus-like pay-as-you-go cards for buses and subway fares.

Platform security controller Li Xiaoyun at Jianguomen, another big intersection, said the situation could have been worse because an expected surge in the number of commuters at the station had been mitigated by the new line.

Beijing plans to launch two more subway lines before the Olympic Games next year, including an airport express line that will not be covered by the flat-rate system.

The Olympic host city has made public transport a priority in an effort to rid Beijing of its reputation for filthy air and horrendous traffic.