At long last, the Suzhou metro Line 1 has finally opened. After enduring over four years of construction, residents and visitors can enjoy the low cost and convenience of underground travel. Suzhou is the first non-capital city in China to get a metro, and was only able to begin construction in 2007 after having their applications to the Beijing government denied twice. The official reason is that it wouldn't be fair to larger capital cities, like Kunming and Chengdu, that didn't have subways at the time, and that some felt the city wouldn't be able to pull it off.
Overall, however, it appears to be a success. The volume of commuters is high, and the project is – incredibly – still going according to schedule. While signage and car design is almost identical to the Shanghai metro, the city did decide to put a local flavour to many of the stops and show off Suzhou traditional culture. Many of the stops have old-style paintings of great events in Suzhou history, like the depiction of a visit by Japanese emissaries at the Xiangmen exit. In fact, all of the stops inside the old moat are named for their significance in history, and not what they are known for today. This can be a little misleading, but most of the stops are in logical locations so it's not hard to figure out.
The new system is not without its problems. A Suzhou news programme that ran the day before it opened highlighted a few of the biggest issues: the ticket machines become jammed if people swipe their cards to quickly, one stop has a stairway to nowhere, and one station almost opened with only exits and no entrances. Some complain that stops inside old town are too close together, others that some stops aren't near anything important. Still, the April 28th opening went without any major incidents, and the metro seems to be operating smoothly.
Line 2, which runs under Renmin Road, will be open at the end of the year, and lines 3 and 4 are scheduled to be completed by 2020. Here are some of the important stops and what they provide access to:
1) Zongnan Jie
Unless you work at Suzhou Singapore International School, you've probably never heard of Zhongnan Jie. It's a ways east of Jinji Lake on the border of SIP and the more industrial Weiting Town. The stop is meant to give access to Lijiagu Park, but besides going to SSIS or checking out the terminal station, there's not really any reason to go all the way to Zhongnan Jie.
2) Times Square/Culture and Expo Center
Three of the four stops written in English are in SIP, and two are quite close to each other. The Culture and Expo Center stop is conveniently between the two massive buildings, and provides access to the Science and Culture Center, the Expo Center, Moon Harbor, and restaurants at Linglong Wan. The main exit is still under construction and promises to be huge shopping centre. The Times Square Exit is on the other side of the Times Square Mall, and really only provides access to shopping and restaurants there.
3) Dongfangzhi Men
One stop east of the Culture and Expo Center is the stop for Jinji Lake amenities. "Love of the East Gate" could better be named Xintiandi, since it lets out in the square right next to the entertainment district. You can literally see the Friday and Saturday evening fountain show when you exit the station. It's also a short walk to Ligongdi from there.
4) Xiang Men
Keeping in the tradition of naming stops for their historical significance and not what's important there now, the Xiang Men stop provides access to Suzhou University. The main stop is right in front of the north gate. This is also the best stop for going to Pingjiang Road, only a block west of exit 3, which is still under construction.
5) Lindun Road/ Le Qiao
The cheerfully named Le Qiao, "happy bridge," provides access to Guanqian shopping street. It's a pretty long street, so the city has cleverly set up Le Qiao at the east end and Lindun Road at the west end. Until Line 2 opens Lindun Road is the closest stop to the museum and Suzhou gardens, although it does mean walking a few blocks down Pingjiang Road.
6) Tayuan Road/Suzhou Amusement Park
Even with the construction of the subway, there still aren't many reasons to go to SND. The sprawling exits of the Tayuan Road stop reach a lot of these places, though. Exit 1 lets you out not far from Downtown Street and Japanese restaurants. Exit 3 is near the south end of the Suzhou University of Science and Technology. Of course the Suzhou Amusement Park exit is best for the Amusement Park, and you can also get to the Emerald City Mall, which is one block north.
The western terminus is as remote as the eastern, and really just lets you off at the border of SND and the town of Mudu, and not close to anything interesting in Mudu itself. This stop was meant to make Lingyan and Tianping Mountains more convenient to reach, but they are both still a bit of a walk from any exit. Still, it's undeniably faster than taking a bus and much cheaper than a taxi.
Suzhou Metro Practical Information:
Operating hours: 5:00 to 23:00
Train frequency: there are 24 trains which come every 5 minutes
Price: 2-6 RMB (bus passes can be used on the metro as well)
Total ride time: 42 minutes
Length: 25 km
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Keywords: Suzhou metro transportation in Suzhou Suzhou subway practical information Suzhou
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