Olympic subway network set to open
Officials expect three new links to start soon
Beijing's new congestion-busting Olympic subway lines are due to open this weekend - just in time to serve the millions of car drivers banned from their vehicles under the odd-even rule, which comes into effect on Sunday.
But transport officials yesterday admitted they were 'perplexed' over the exact opening date of three new lines, whose operation has been delayed since late last month.
'Today is Thursday, so we've still got Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There's a possibility we will open them over these three days,' said Zhou Zhengyu, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications, after being quizzed several times by journalists for an exact date.
Earlier reports in state media gave a Sunday opening, but Mr Zhou was unable to confirm that. 'This question perplexes you reporters and it perplexes us too,' he said.
However, he confirmed that on Monday, drivers banned from the road because their number plates end in an odd number would be able to use the new services.
At a combined cost of 22.3 billion yuan (HK$25.57 billion), Line 10, the main Olympic venues spur line and the Airport Express were to open last month as part of the city's huge makeover and infrastructure upgrade.
Mr Zhou said that because of the complex supply chain that included overseas contractors, 'there were some technical problems that could not be avoided'.
Line 10, which runs 25km from Haidian district to south of the central business district, would see 850,000 passengers daily during the Games, with 220,000 taking the 5km Olympic spur line, Mr Zhou said.
The 28km airport line - which will whiz passengers between the new Terminal 3 and Dongzhimen station - would serve an estimated maximum of 30,000 passengers a day with a 15-minute frequency.
Though it would be convenient and save time, the scheduled in-town check-in would not be ready until after the Games, said Mr Zhou, who said officials had inspected such facilities in other cities, including Hong Kong.
'This has worked extremely well in Hong Kong and we have been there to inspect it,' Mr Zhou said.
Beijing's near-perfect preparations such as stadium construction and staff training were praised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week for setting a 'gold standard' for other Games hosts to follow.
Compared with the last Olympic host, Athens, where infrastructure construction fell well behind schedule and finishing touches were being made on the eve of the opening ceremony, Beijing has impressed the IOC with its precise preparation timetable.
Mr Zhou was confident that the new subway lines would fulfil their goal. 'The new lines will improve the transportation system,' he said. We've put much emphasis on ease of travel in designing the new subway lines.'
Subway lines are said to be close to opening
The new lines will take the total number of lines on the Beijing subway network to 7
The system's total length of track, in kilometres, will increase from 142 to 200