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China economy

Beijing goes driverless with latest addition to its subway network

Metro system in Chinese capital now spans 608km and is set to grow by a further 50pc over next two years

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 December, 2017, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 December, 2017, 11:17pm

Beijing on Saturday opened three new subway lines, including one that will be served entirely by driverless trains, state media reported.

The addition of 33km of lines takes the Chinese capital’s total metro network to 608km and cements its position as one of the world’s longest. At the end of last year, just 14km separated Shanghai and Beijing at the top of the network length charts, far ahead of London and New York.

The most notable of the new additions is the Yanfang line, which will be fully automatic, Xinhua reported. The 14km line, which runs through the city’s southwestern suburbs, has nine stations and no drivers, it said, adding that all of the equipment and technology it uses are home-grown.

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With support from a remote control centre, the driverless system will run on preset programmes based on 41 scenarios, Wang Wei, an engineering official on the project, was quoted as saying.

“For example, if a door can’t close because there are too many passengers trying to board a train, the remote control centre can send an alert to a member of staff at the station.”

He said also that the trains were programmed to stop if they sensed a blockage on the track, and in the event of a fire would automatically open all carriage doors at the next stop.

The new line is expected to carry 70,000 passengers a day, Xinhua said.

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The second addition to the Beijing network is the 10km S1 Line, which is described as a “low speed” maglev service, on which trains will run at a top speed of 100km/h. In comparison, trains on the maglev line that connects downtown Shanghai to its international airport in Pudong travel at up to 300km/h.

The third of Beijing’s new additions is the 9km West Suburb Line, which will serve some of the city’s most popular tourist spots, including the Summer Palace.

China has witnessed a boom in intracity rail and subway construction over the past decade. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, it has opened more than 3,000km of new subway lines – more than the entire networks of the United States and Britain combined.

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When Beijing hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 2008, it had just eight lines covering about 200km. It now has 22 lines stretching three times that distance.

By 2020, the capital alone will have 900km of metro lines, the Xinhua report said. Its current network handles up to 10 million passenger trips a day, transport official Li Haitao was quoted as saying.