Beijing put four subway lines and extensions into operation yesterday as part of the Chinese capital’s efforts to expand its public urban transport network and ease traffic congestion.
The openings bring the number of lines in the Chinese capital to 16 with a total length of 442 kilometers (275 miles), according to a statement on the website of government-owned Beijing Subway Operation Co. which runs the system.
China’s economy has quadrupled in size over the past decade, boosting car ownership that’s led to clogged roads and forced some cities to impose traffic restrictions. The nation, home to 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, according to the World Bank, has this year accelerated approvals for the construction of local transport networks across the country.
As many as 300 million of the nation’s 1.4 billion people will move from the countryside by 2030 to join the 600 million already living in cities, according to estimates from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Li Keqiang, who became No. 2 in the ruling Communist Party hierarchy last month in a once-a-decade power transfer, is championing urbanization as a new growth engine.
The National Development and Reform Commission this month approved plans to build 456 kilometers of subway in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, involving initial investment of 63.7 billion yuan ($10 billion) and has allowed similar projects in cities including Fuzhou and Urumqi. Xi’an and Lanzhou are among regional capitals in northwestern China building or planning metro systems.
Wuhan, capital of central Hubei province, this month opened a subway line under the Yangtze River to link the city’s two biggest urban areas. Hangzhou, capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang, last month opened its first subway line and plans to build another nine by 2020, according to a Nov. 24 Xinhua report.
Beijing’s four new subway lines cost about 83 billion yuan, according to a report on the government’s website. The network will extend to 664 kilometers in 2016, connecting all seven newly established districts around the city’s main urban area, it said.
With a population of 20 million, Beijing already caps the number of new auto registrations and limits the use of private vehicles on designated days based on their license plate numbers. The government is planning to build a system for imposing road- congestion charges on motorists, the city’s transport commission said in August.
Shanghai, Guangzhou and Guiyang are among cities that also impose restrictions on vehicle ownership. Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, will broaden traffic controls in the city starting Jan. 1, according to a Dec. 28 statement on the government’s website. Vehicles deemed heavily polluting based on emissions will be banned inside the city’s second ring road, it said. They are currently not allowed within the first ring road.
--Nerys Avery, William Bi. With assistance from Regina Tan in Beijing. Editors: Paul Tighe, Nerys Avery
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