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First line of Beijing's subway is completed.



1969, October 1


Originally planned in the early 1960s, the first line of the Beijing subway was designed as a military infrastructure to move personnel and troops quickly from the government compound in the city center to bunkers in the Western Hills. Chairman Mao, who was paranoid about an attack of the Soviet Union, had approved the project on February 4, 1965. The Beijing subway was the first of its kind in China. The project was plagued with multiple disasters and technical problems. Operations began on January 15, 1971, however for the next ten years the subway ran on a trial basis and was shut down several times. Regular operations began on September 15, 1981 when the first line was finally opened to the public. With a length of 27.6 km, it had 19 stations - linking the Beijing Railway Station to the Western Hills. For 20 years, between 1981 and 2000 the development of Beijing's subway stagnated. At the beginning of the 21st century, Beijing only had two subway lines - far less than most other cities of this size.

Comment: The failure of the Chinese government to recognize the advantages of mass-transport in the densely populated urban areas of Eastern China is one the biggest errors in infrastructure development in recent decades. No other part of the world was more suitable for an efficient subway transportation infrastructure than China, but the government followed the "American" ideal of an individual, car-based transportation infrastructure. Beijing was building one highway-ring after the other, instead of massively expanding the subways and linking it to a regional railway system. The result is traffic chaos, environmentall pollution, and increasing oil dependency.


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Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. - 18 April 2012