Chengdu Subway: Day One Photos

This afternoon I was treated to my first ride on the Chengdu subway, and I gotta say: it’s impressive. Modern, clean and overall an extremely smooth ride, literally and figuratively.

I rode from the Sichuan Gymnasium Station (????) to Century City (???) taking pictures all the way. Rather than tell you what it was like, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Chengdu Subway
Entering the Sichuan Gymnasium station
Chengdu Subway
Well dressed ticket man grants me entrance
Chengdu Subway
No cigarettes, vendors, littering or begging on the Chengdu subway
Chengdu Subway
There were almost no passengers in Chengdu stations at all on the first day of operation

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway
A map of stations along the first line of the subway
Chengdu Subway
Large LCD screens show information inside stations. Plus, man in panda suit comically falls down the escalator

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway
Passengers bags pass through a metal detector before descending to the train platform
Chengdu Subway
You can easily see inside the control room in each station

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway
Walking down the stairs to the train platform
Chengdu Subway
Waiting for the train on the platform, the goofy panda appears again
Chengdu Subway
Stations feature bold lettering indicating your current station
Chengdu Subway
Boarding the northbound train which goes to Chengdu's North Train Station
Chengdu Subway
As the train arrived, this guy stood directly in front of me and made this gesture
Chengdu Subway
Upon stepping inside the train for the first time I find it filled with passengers
Chengdu Subway
LCD's inside trains loop footage created by the train authority. Goofy panda once again.
Chengdu Subway
Indicators above the door show current and next stop with a series of blinking lights

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway
Exiting the station I pass through a corridor lined with huge backlit photos

Chengdu Subway

Chengdu Subway
Two subway workers joke as they exit the Sichuan Gymnasium Station
Chengdu Subway
My journey ends as I say goodbye to the employees at the subway entrance

Overall I’m really impressed with the Chengdu subway and can’t wait to see the impact that it has on the city.

Subway Details

Official Opening Date

October 1st, 2010

Hours of Operation

7am – 9pm

Price of Tickets

2-4 yuan depending on origin and destination

Stations on the First Line

Shenxian Lake
North Train Station
Renmin Beilu
Wenshu Monastery
Luomashi
Tianfu Square (the subway’s largest station and hub)
Jinjiang Hotel
Huaxiba
Sichuan Gymnasium
Nijiaqiao
Tongzilin
South Train Station
High-Tech Zone
Financial City
Incubation Center
Haiyang Ocean Park
Century City

Questions or comments about the Chengdu Subway? Leave a comment!

62 thoughts on “Chengdu Subway: Day One Photos”

  1. Pingback: Hao Hao Report
  2. Hell Yeah! This kind of infrastructure development is the upside of the fact that in China the balance between property rights and government discretion is tilted heavily towards the latter. If they say a subway will be built, it will be built. A project of this size could never be completed in a dense, developed, American city because of all of the property owners infringed upon and the litigious nature of the US. The downside to way the balance tilts in China is that government discretion can be used to confiscate land in cases that do not have a clear benefit to the public good. Just ask all of the suburban/exurban farmers who have had their land taken for commercial development.

    • I hear the subway has been under actual construction for only a few years which is pretty incredible considering that every station (except one) along the main line is in operation today. I have yet to check out the Tianfu Square station in the center of the city but that will obviously be the main hub of the entire network. In terms of transit and development, Chengdu has taken a huge step towards modernization today. The feeling of stepping down into the subway was really surreal for me after so many years of anticipating this moment.

      When I emerged from the station at the end it felt like I was… kind of… returning to Chengdu.

  3. Awesome! Can’t wait to try it out. I think we’ll have to wait until lines 2 and 3 open up in the next couple of years to see any real effect on traffic (if at all) but from the pics above it looks like a really clean and smart new system.

    What’s the pricing like?

    • The prices fall between 2-4 yuan depending on your destination. I’m not sure what the price will look like on monthly passes or if that’ll result in a discount but the tickets are looking very reasonably priced.

      For me I can use the subway when going to or from work in Gaoxin qu! It’s convenient if the subway crosses through the areas you frequent but unfortunately the area is pretty limited with only one line. Still, this is the most important line that divides the city.

  4. Things always have a good begaining and become worse and worse,that’s how things going on in China.in a few years,chengdu’s subway may as dirty as beijijng’s

    • True, true. One thing I noticed was that the tiles on the floor already looked worn and kind of unevenly placed. I was thinking that it really shouldn’t be looking like that on the first day! Everything else appeared to be in really good shape, though.

      Other people have checked out this post and told me that it looks like a cheaper version of the Hong Kong MTR, and I agree, but for Chengdu I think it’s really impressive overall.

  5. Wow, I am sincerely happy to read this. When I left Chengdu in 2006, they just began the project. It’s said to be for 2011 the first line. It is truly impressive! Thanks a lot for the photos!

    • Hahahah. I actually work there! It’s a poor translation though, it really should be Innovation Park. It’s part of the high-tech zone of South Chengdu.

      Chengdu has long been established as a national base for the IT industry and those two stations (Incubation Park and High-Tech Zone) are where all that stuff is located. Here’s some info on Wikipedia about the IT district in Chengdu, called Gaoxin: http://bit.ly/9GY3v1

  6. Looks *exactly* like the subway in Shenzhen, especially the newly added stations. You didn’t buy a card where you can store some money inside and reuse it? We have Shenzhen Tong card, newest versions can even be used in HK as well (two chips).

    • It also looks exactly like the subways in Shanghai ! The signs of the metrostation, the platforms, the check-in thingy ! It took them a long time to built this !

    • Monthly use cards aren’t available for purchase yet, right now the subway is in a preview phase until the official opening on October 1st. I will get a monthly card at that time though. I’m hoping it works something like an Octopus card!

  7. Hm, there is a security check? In Beijing, a security check was started for the Olympics – but it never went away. In Shanghai, it was started for the Expo. In Chengdu? I guess now that Beijing and Shanghai subways have them, maybe it just seems normal to go through an x-ray machine to get on a subway. Sad.

    BTW, @Eli, who thinks a “a project of this size and complexity could never be built in the US” – you know, there are actually many subways in the US, including a whole new system built in LA in the nineties, and a new line – which in size and complexity dwarfs this one – under construction in New York right now. Not knocking the Chengdu subway, and for sure this project happened much faster than it would have in the US, but we’re not completely moribund…

    • Not to be nit-picky, but if you are going to use quotation marks to cite someones previous remarks, you really should use the exact words that they used, not an approximation.

      What I said was:
      “A project of this size could never be completed in a dense, developed, American city because of all of the property owners infringed upon and the litigious nature of the US.”

      I wasn’t trying to say that subways in the US are dead, only that they face more legal challenges when they are build in dense areas.

      US subway system development these days focuses on connecting areas around the edges of the city to the existing network. You don’t see big US city’s starting from scratch with new systems downtown.

      I will say, to refine my original statement, that it is not the size of this construction that makes it unlike the US, but the fact that it was able to be build quickly, in the dead-center of town, without encountering any notable opposition.

      • “without encountering any notable opposition.” Yeah, communism ! Well, in Holland, metros are built pretty quick and its privately owned.

      • Eli,your original post is spot on regarding the difficulties of building this kind of ambitious project in American cities. This not only has to do with the legal issues about seizing private property, but also the current political zeitgeist (mainly among Republicans) where any sort of spending of tax-payer dollars that will benefit society as a whole is seen as a waste and an attempt at ‘socialism’. Just look at all the resistance Obama is getting to his new proposal to stimulate economic activity with a new round of investment in infrastructure development.

        Also, ddjiii, I’m not sure what you are talking about but there is no subway ‘system’ in L.A. There is one underground line (The Red Line) and its route is very limited. There are plans to build more subway lines but it’s hitting a ton of resistance.

        New York City is probably America’s best example of an extensive subway system but keep in mind that the first line opened in 1904- back when it and other American cities were still undergoing substantial development like Chinese cities are today.

    • There’s a security check which includes an x-ray scanner that all passengers will have to pass through. Even with no people in the station I question the practicality of that decision – I actually asked the security guards working there if the x-ray machine would remain there forever. “It will” they confirmed. I think they might regret it when you have huge lines and everyone rushing through at such speed that it’s impossible to carefully scan everyones contents anyway. It’s like the trains in China – your bag passes through an x-ray machine when you go inside the bus station but when you’re scanning 50+ bags a minute it isn’t really possible to check anything carefully.

  8. Pingback: Subway opens in Chengdu
  9. Eli is right, but the reason they managed to do it here is because they didn’t really go underneath any structures. It was all up and down the roads so not a huge problem. Terminals are under crossroads so also easy to do.

  10. Thats a good point Callum. Going underneath public properties makes it less of an issue. Not that the government here would hesitate to seize “private” land if needed.

    In the US the practice of seizing private land for public usage is called eminent domain. Apparently in the UK it is called ‘compulsory purchase.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eminent_domain

    In China its called ‘pack your shit and leave before I release the dogs.’ Different countries, different standards.

    • Line 1 is operational now which runs along Ren Min Lu (North, Middle & South sections).

      Line 2 will open next year (supposedly) which will run east-west so it forms a kind of cross.

      Line 3 opening the year after next (again supposedly) will do a loop along the first ring road I gather.

      • I tried to get on today but they wouldn’t let me. Tried at TianFu and at JinJiang hotel. Are there only some stations open at the moment?

        • None of the stations are “officially” open now – the first day of normal operation is October 1st. For these few weeks the subway is in some kind of trial phase where they’re giving away free tickets for press and people to check it out. I assume that they’re taking this time to fix logistical problems before they open it for real and it’s filled with thousands of people everyday.

  11. > As the train arrived, this guy stood directly in front of me and made this gesture

    It looks like his back is facing the safety door, which suggests that he is telling passengers on the platform to stand aside while people exit the train. In Shanghai this is summed up in the slogan 先下后上 (“First off, then on”).

    • Right, that’s what I was thinking, but there was no one else like him standing at the other safety doors along the corridor. Just one guy. There’s like 2 people boarding the train and zero exiting at the station I was at and this guy gets in front of me and makes this bizarre ceremonious gesture. I kinda felt like he thought he was “Keeping the foreigner under control” or making some kind of statement about how professional they are.

  12. haha~ hot!!

    “As the train arrived, this guy stood directly in front of me and made this gesture”
    I think he just wanted to remind me .
    I walked to the door, would like to see the MTR by station . He immediately made the gesture, maybe he just want remind me when the MTR was not stopped .
    but, I am a bit false myopia, just want to see it .

    He is friendly.

    and~ charlie. You’re welcome.

  13. Pingback: Chengdu’s First Subway Line Set to Open | China Urban Development Blog
  14. Great pics, thanks. When I was in Chengdu about five years ago, they’d just started building it, the whole central square in front of the mao statue was closed off, as well as quite a few streets. Very interesting.
    Also, it looks just like the new lines in Beijing, probably the same company.

    • Thanks Paul-

      I remember Tianfu Square being under construction for years, although I first arrived in Chengdu just before that started. Stepping down into the subway for the first time was a pretty surreal experience after seeing huge construction efforts go on for five years. Hard to believe it’s finally done!

      Someone commented above that it looks just like the Shenzhen subway, too. It would make sense if one company was responsible for the design and appearance of all of them.

  15. Some people have been commenting that the design of Line 1 stations in Chengdu resembles that of subways in other cities like Shenzhen or Beijing. Some have suggested that the ‘same company’ might have built them.

    Come on people do you even live in China? That ‘same company’ is the government! Of course they want consistency, especially for something functional like transportation infrastructure.

  16. To Charlie or anyone else:
    Are multiple-journey tickets available for purchase yet, or are only single-journey tickets available at this time? Thanks!

    • I might be mistaken, but I don’t think multiple-journey tickets are for sale yet. I tried to buy such a ticket a few days ago and the woman at the ticket counter told me that the cards expire after 48 hours. It seems like they’re still in the early adjustment stage – buying tickets is a slow process because no one knows what they’re doing and many of the automated machines aren’t in operation. I’m confident they’ll fix these problems but in these first few weeks, it’s going to be a little slow.

      This week, for national day holiday, the trains are ridiculously crowded as well.

    • I haven’t gone end-to-end, but I would estimate it to take about 35 minutes or so. It’s pretty far – that distance might cost something in the range of 40-50 yuan in a taxi depending on traffic.

  17. Hi all, sorry I wasn’t checking in to earlier comments.
    @Eli – Right about the quote marks, I should be more careful. And I actually don’t disagree with everyone’s idea that it’s a lot harder and more expensive to do big infrastructure projects in the U.S. But it’s actually not right to say it can’t be done or hasn’t been done. @Adam – I don’t know for L.A., but Wikipedia says there are two heavy rail lines and three light rail lines, all built since 1990 – that sounds like a system to me. Atlanta has built a four line system since 1979. And as I mentioned before, NYC is currently building a new line in Manhattan. So it can in fact be done. And in fact I would say the days of “release the dogs” (great phrase) are in fact mostly over in major urban areas in China (perhaps excepting Chongqing, ha ha). Subways and other projects in China now face a lot of the same legal challenges and NIMBY problems that you see around the world – witness the Shanghai maglev, shut down by opposition from neighbors to the line.

  18. “In China its called ‘pack your shit and leave before I release the dogs.’ Different countries, different standards.”

    It’s a lie or misinformation. People do get compensated. Government will allocate newly built apartment for those displaced. Many people living in old buildings in those areas actually are longing for this kind of exchange. My sister in Chengdu and her apartment is about 10 years old and she is hoping that the government will come to purchase her old place so she can get an upgrade. Yes, unfair forced eviction does happen because the affected citizens want more money or better arrangement than what the government is offering. Government does offer something, it’s not “packing your shit and leave”, absolutely not!

  19. I live near Chengdu, some 25 miles north of the city, and have had the occasion to ride the new No. 1 subway line. I have to say it
    is a very impressive system and I will be
    really pleased to see the additional lines open which will make getting around this huge city so much easier – and just maybe it will help to alleviate the heavy traffic that often clogs the streets.

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