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New Beijing Subway Line Opens to Public

Beijing on Sunday began operating a north-south trunk subway line on a trial basis, offering 2 yuan (27 cents) fares.

After four years and nine months of construction, Line 5, which connects Tiantongyuan, Changping District, in the north and Songjiazhuang, Fengtai District, in the south, opened to passengers at 2 PM yesterday.

It takes 49 minutes to cover all the 23 stations along the 27.6-km rail line.

The line passes through key Beijing tourist sites including Dongdan, Tiantan (Temple of Heaven) and large communities like Tiantongyuan.

"As a north-south artery line, the opening of Line 5 will greatly alleviate the traffic pressure on the ground," Wang Qishan, mayor of Beijing, said.

"And the unified low ticket price will attract more people to take the subway to go out."

It only costs passengers 2 yuan to take the city's subway lines without limits on distance and transfer times.

The operation of the new line, the fifth one, boosts the total length of the capital city's track transport network to 142 km and the number of stations to 93.

"It is a demonstration of the city's determination to give priority to the development of the public transportation system," Wang said.

"Its successful operation ushered in a golden era for the city's construction of subways."

Liu Xiaoming, deputy director of the Beijing municipal committee of communications, said that by next year the city would have about 200 km of operational subway lines.

As a long-term plan, Beijing will by 2015 have a total 561 km of subway lines, he said.

People queued in long lines to be among the first to ride the new rail network yesterday.

"It is one of the most important reasons why I bought my house in Tiantongyuan," said Zhang Xin, a clerk who works in the Guomao area of Chaoyang District.

The new line could cut his daily commute from nearly two hours to half an hour, he said.

Jia Peng, director of the press office of the Beijing Mass Transit Railway Operation Corp Ltd, the city's railway lines operator, said that temporary safety measures, such as setting passenger limits, have been introduced for the one-year trial.

"We need the cooperation and understanding of passengers and we will take all means to ensure their safety," he said.

(China Daily October 8, 2007)

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