The World’s Largest Underground System
After rolling out almost 50,000 miles of expressways and 6,000 miles of high-speed rail lines, China is now turning its attention underground with the most extensive metro project the world has ever seen.
Under the current projections, China will build the equivalent of 250 Circle lines by the end of the decade Photo: ALAMY
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH. By Malcolm Moore, in Shanghai
More than 1 trillion yuan (£100 billion) will be spent on building underground networks in 28 cities, according to Gao Yucai, the head of the urban mass transit committee at China’s Communications and Transport association.
Under the current projections, China
will build the equivalent of 250 Circle lines by the end of the decade.
Twelve Chinese cities already have metro systems up and running – and Shanghai went from a standing start to having a bigger network than the London Underground in just 15 years.
But creating metro systems has now become an important badge of progress even for lesser cities, such as Taiyuan, Urumqi and Shijiazhuang, many of whose residents are unsure about why billions of pounds of investment should be funnelled underground.
“For local governments, having a metro really polishes the city’s image and illustrates the political achievements of its officials, even though all the metro lines currently in operation are losing money,” said Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing’s Jiaotong universitY.
“Of course, local governments will have to fund the projects, and they are already heavily in debt. The money will have to mostly come from bank loans,” he added.
More than 90 new lines have been rubber-stamped by China’s Reform and Development Commission, which oversees the country’s planning. And many smaller cities, including Dali, Haikou, Zhuzhou and Luoyang, are now in the process of submitting their own plans for approval.
Experts said even if there appeared little need for widespread metro systems now, China’s traffic problems would be a major issue in the years ahead. “Even the smaller cities are choked up with traffic,” said Xie Weida, a professor at Tongji university. “Urban rail is a good way to solve that.” “I am sure the local governments are not building subways just to improve their image, but also out of practical concerns. Our original plans never foresaw how many cars there would be on the roads, and there are ever increasing numbers of people moving to the cities.”