After years of planning and construction (nine to be exact), the first line of the Chengdu subway is nearing completion. This will be the first of fives lines and with construction costing more than seven billion yuan, it looks to be a modern and comprehensive network as it reaches total completion over the next decade. It’s a good thing too, because over the last few years finding taxis in Chengdu has become increasingly difficult. Taxis are in extremely high demand during peak hours and it’s become routine to see groups of people searching for taxis on the same corner and even fighting over ownership of flagged cabs by exchanging words, cold glances, and fists. That, along with our buses spontaneously combusting, creates an atmosphere of extreme high demand for the new rail network.
The inaugural line of the subway will divide the city by the North and South train stations which bookend Chengdu – in total a 27km route with 15 stations. Running up the length of Ren Min Nan Lu and stopping at Tong Zi Lin and Ni Jia Qiao with the central hub of Tianfu Square, this will certainly be the most practical route for foreigners in Chengdu. Every effort to modernize the network is being taken with sophisticated features like Automatic Train Control and emergency response systems aiming to lower the chances of them spontaneously combusting or seeing similar catastrophic failures.
Recently fares have been announced to fall between 2 and 4.5 yuan which keeps this a cheap option no matter how far you plan to travel.
Anyone who’s recently spent time in Chengdu understands the milestone that completing the first line of this subway will be. For the last ten years the only public transportation options have been public buses (which are packed with people like human sardines at rush hour) and taxis which are increasingly difficult to flag within second ring road. Here’s to hoping that the subway line brings long lasting change to Chengdus mounting traffic problem.
What I’m wondering is: will the Chengdu subway have its own unique character like Moscow, Washington DC, or Hong Kong? Will this be a generic subway or will it smartly be able to manage incorporating local history and culture into its design? Time will tell.