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5 New Lines Take Metro to the Edge

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Five new subway lines opened in the capital city Thursday, in the latest bid to ease the city's gridlocked traffic.

5 new lines take metro to the edge

The five new subway lines -- Fangshan Line, Changping Line, the first phase of the No 15 Line, Yizhuang Line and Daxing Line -- have a combined length of 108 kilometers, bringing the city's total metro length to 336 km and the total number of subway lines to 14.

The new lines, built at a cost of nearly 61 billion yuan (US9.24 billion), link Beijing's suburban districts of Fangshan, Changping, Shunyi and Daxing with downtown areas.

The five lines began transporting passengers at 2:00 PM on Thursday, charging a ticket price of 2 yuan (US$30 cents).

On the Fangshan Line, trains will run at a top speed of 100 km per hour, making the line the fastest among all metro trains in operation in China, according to a report by Beijing Youth Daily.

The five new lines will slash travel times for many commuters who live outside the downtown area.

Residents in Wangjing area, a big residential compound between the city's fourth and fifth north ring roads, said the new No 15 subway line will make their daily commute far more convenient.

Cao Wenning, 45, who waited outside the Wangjing subway station for more than 20 minutes before the subway line's opening on Thursday, said she was excited and could not wait to try the new track.

Cao, who has been living in Wangjing for 14 years, said the area was called "sleeping city" 10 years ago, because people left in the morning to work and returned at night to sleep. The traffic at rush hour was terrible, she said.

"I used to drive to work, but I have decided to take the subway in the future because of its convenience and Beijing's annoying traffic jams," she said. "The opening of this new line is the biggest event in the past 10 years for residents here."

But the five new lines will not be enough to fix the city's traffic congestion, said Zhang Changqing, director of the transportation law institute at the Beijing Jiaotong University.

"The current metro length of more than 330 km is insufficient. What the city should do is fast-track construction of more subway lines and integrate them into an efficient network," he said.

Currently, Beijing's metro network carries more than 5 million passengers every day, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The city plans to have 30 subway lines by 2020, with a total track length of more than 1,000 km, enabling all residents to reach a subway station in 15 to 20 minutes' walk, according to the city's plan for rail transportation from 2011 to 2020.

The city will spend 150 billion yuan over the next five years to increase the density of metro lines in downtown areas, Beijing Infrastructure Investment Co Ltd said on Wednesday.

(China Daily December 31, 2010)

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