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

December 29, 1987|Associated Press

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.

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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