Though it’s still all too easy to compare Beijing’s subway with a tin of sardines during rush hour, the opening of Metro Line 4 on September 28 has been a welcome addition to the overworked and under-developed subway network in the city. Before Metro Line 4 opened, it was unimaginable to get from the Old Summer Palace to Xidan in 40 minutes, or even from Zhongguancun to Xizhime in less than thirty. Below is an introduction to the new line that serves some of Beijing’s most bustling areas, but first a brief outline of Beijing’s subway situation.
Beijing’s subway system is the oldest and busiest subway in mainland China. In recent years, it has been undergoing enormous extension work in order to meet the city’s pressing mass transit needs. Beijing currently possesses the country’s second longest subway after Shanghai and serves an average of 5 million passengers per day. However, in a city whose population and transit needs are increasing rapidly, even Beijing’s latest subway line 4 opening is still a long shot away from meeting the necessary demand.
Though there’s still a long way to go, the city has made huge advancements in its plan to double its network’s size by 2012, not alone due to the Chinese government’s 4 trillion RMB stimulus package, but also thanks to the arrival of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Moreover, nine new subway lines are currently under construction in Beijing, and a total of 19 new lines are planned by 2015.
Beijing Metro Line 4 Route
The new Metro Line 4 is a north-south running line, starting from Anheqiao Bei 安河桥北 and terminating at Gonyixiqiao 公益西桥. The line stops at some of Beijing’s busiest spots, including Zhongguancun 中关村, Beijing Zoo 动物园, Xizhimen西直门, Xinjiekou 新街口, Xidan 西单 and Beijing South Train Station 北京南站. In total, the line serves 24 stops on the north-south axis in the western part of the city.
All subway line 4 stations cater to the weak and disabled and have excellent safety facilities. Each station is fitted with escalators and vertical lifts. Moreover, the tracks are lined with protective platform screen doors that only open when the train has fully stopped. Carriages are also equipped with emergency intercoms, alarm activation facilities and bilingual announcements and signs. Wide ticket-checking gates, special guidance signs, emergency stop buttons on pillars in the platform and alerting systems for people with hearing disorders have also been fitted into most stations.
The line also has interchange stations to Beijing’s main lines meaning that passengers in west Beijing now have easy and fast access to the rest of the city; namely Line 10 at Haidianhuangzhuang, Line 2 at Xizhimen and Line 1 at Xidan. Below is a quick guide to some of the best stops on the new subway line 4.
The Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan 圆明园)
One guess what the main attraction of this stop is? That’s right, it’s none other than the Old Summer Palace. Though the old summer palace itself was completely destroyed by British and French troops in 1860 during the Opium War, the odd pieces of remaining rubble, beautiful lotus ponds and gardens subtly remind visitors of a time when these grounds contained the most splendid summer palace in all of China. Unfortunately, most of the palace’s relics were taken away to foreign museums and private collections. Nonetheless, the Old Summer Palace is still a valuable cultural relic and emblem of China’s rich history.
Exit A (north-western exit): China Archive Dragon Culture Museum
Exit B (north-eastern exit): west gate of Tsinghua University, Yuanmingyuan Police Station and the Old Summer Palace
Exit C (south-eastern exit): Peking University
Beijing Zoo Station of Metro Line 4
Beijing Zoo 动物园
Besides the obvious attraction, this stop offers more than just cute animals. Beijing Zoo is actually one of Beijing’s main clothing markets, with a handful of large-scale wholesale markets selling some of the cheapest clothes in the capital. Read all about the Zoo Market here. It’s also close to French supermarket chain Carrefour, Beijing Exhibition Center and Beijing Aquarium.
Exit A (north-west): Beijing Western Suburbs Animal Hospital, Carrefour, Beijing Zoo, Beijing Zoo police station.
Exit B (north-east): Beijing Aquarium, Beijing Exhibition Centre, Beijing Exhibition Centre Hotel, Beijing Exhibition Centre Theatre.
Exit C (south-east): connected to an underground subway path, Jinkailide Building, Shiji Tianle Wholesale Clothes Market, Zoo Wholsale Clothes Market etc.
Exit D (south-west): Beijing Planetarium, Paleozoological Museum of China, Tianlegong Clothing Market etc.
Xinjiekou Station 新街口
Xinjiekou bustles with life. Not only is this area lined with lots of little shops and restaurants, it’s also home to some of Beijing’s oldest hutongs and is within walking distance of the beautiful Xihai and Houhai lakes.
Exit A (north-west): Xinhua Bookshop, Xicheng District Cultural Centre
Exit B (north-east): Xicheng District Children’s Library, Xu Beihong Museum, Beijing Tianmei Fashion Plaza
Exit C (south-east): New Children’s Palace of Beijing
Exit D (south-west): Xizhimen Catholic Church, Zhengyuan Mosque, Jingdu Hotel
Xidan Station 西单
Xidan is Beijing’s main shopping area. You’ll find one huge international department store after another, as well as major chain stores such as H&M. Another popular destination in Xidan is the Beijing Books Building, home to one of Beijing’s largest collections of English language books and of course and endless choice of Chinese language books. Xidan also has several large electronics stores, fashion malls, restaurants etc. It’s the place to go if you want to find everything in one convenient (yet large) area.
Exit F1 (north-west): Beijing Xihe Hospital, Beijing Juntai Department Store.
Exit F2 (north-west): Bank of China Building, The Cultural Palace of Nationalities
G (north-east): Xidan Cultural Square, Zhongyou Department Store, Beijing Books Building, Xidan Department Store
H (south-east): Capital Modern Square, Xidan International Building
J1 (south-west): China Minsheng Bank Building, Canzheng Hutong
J2 (south-west): Luxun Middle School, Beijing No.2 Experimental Primary School
Beijing South Station 北京南站
After two years of reconstruction, Beijing South Railway Station began operating on August 1st 2008. The station is now known as “the number one railway station in Asia” and mainly operates CRH trains (China Railway High-Speed). The station is the first to have express inter-city services between Tianjin and Beijing, connecting the two cities in just 30 minutes. The Beijing-Shanghai Express also leaves from here, and the station is served by all means of transportation including common, express and suburban railways, subway, public bus and taxis. An ultra modern building run on solar energy, Beijing South Station is one of Beijing’s main transport hubs.
Exit A (north-west): Beijing Xinqiao Foreign Language Institute, Dakang International Shoe City
Exit B1 (north-east): Yongdingmen Long Distance Bus Station
Exit B2 (north-east): Beijing South Railway Station Police Station
Exit D (south-west): Yangqiao Police Station, Xinyandu Chain Hotel
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