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City Center Loop Complete After 20 Years : Beijing’s Subway System Finally on Track

Associated Press

Confused passengers snatched up maps Monday at Beijing’s main subway station as the last stretch of track needed to circle the central city went into service, fulfilling a dream conceived by Mao Tse-tung two decades ago.

“Because it’s the first day, things are a bit confused. People aren’t used to it yet,” said Su Fanlan, a subway employee helping direct passengers at the Fuxingmen Station on the city’s southwest side.

Mao ordered work begun on the Beijing subway in 1966, and an initial 15-mile section was completed three years later. But for 11 years, only a few people with special passes were allowed to use it, apparently because of its proximity to underground air-raid shelters. It finally opened to the public in 1980. A partial loop around the city center was completed in 1984; the just-opened 1,150-foot-long stretch of track closed that loop.

While Beijing’s streets are transformed into nightmarish snarls of cars and bicycles at rush hour, half-empty subway cars move below ground.

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But the problem isn’t the price--about 5 cents for a ride on the loop and 3 cents more to transfer to the suburban line. Officials hope the greater convenience of the completed system, added at a cost of $4.6 million, will increase ridership from 550,000 passengers a day to 850,000.

China’s only other subway is a three-mile-long line in the east coast industrial city of Tianjin.


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