BEIJING — 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.