History of China’s Subway Development


The development of China’s subway can be divided into four stages

1. Before the 1960s: the tram era
China’s tram is the first urban rail transit system. Beijing’s tram appeared as early as 1900. The tram line was originally introduced from Germany and built a tram line from Majiapu to Yongdingmen with a total length of 7.5km. Later, urban rail transit developed slowly, and trams were successively built in Shanghai, Shenyang, Tianjin, and Harbin. Although trams have brought convenience for citizens to travel, they have certain shortcomings. For example, the track affects the refurbishment of the road surface and municipal construction, which is likely to cause traffic congestion, slow speed, and loud noise. In view of these problems, China has successively demolished trams, and currently only Dalian still has trams.

2. Before the 1980s: the initial construction period

Due to economic strength and technical level, the construction of mass urban rail transit started late. Beijing is the first city that built a subway. On September 20, 1969, Beijing Metro Line 1 with a length of 23.2km was officially opened. Before the 1980s, the planning and construction of subways not only realized the function of urban passenger transport, but also considered the requirements of war readiness.

3. In the 1990s: development period

After entering the 1990s, in order to meet the needs of rapid urban development and ease the tension of urban transportation, China increased its investment in urban transportation infrastructure, and began to emphasize the role of rail transit in guiding the urban transportation system and urban development. The concept of developing a mass rail transit system began to emerge. In the 1990s, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Dalian started the construction of rail transit projects.

4. The 21st century: rapid development
On October 28, Shenzhen Rail Transit Line 2 Phase 3, Line 8, Line 3 Phase 3, and Line 4 Phase 3 were opened for operation at the same time. Up to now, the total operating mileage of Shenzhen Metro has exceeded 400 kilometers. In 2020 a total of 6 new subway lines totaling 107 kilometers in Shenzhen were opened, which is also the year with the most mileage of lines opened since 2018.

So far, a total of 41 cities in mainland China have opened operations. The top ten cities in terms of traffic mileage are: Shanghai (705KM), Beijing (699.0KM), Guangzhou (515KM), Shenzhen (411KM), Nanjing (378KM) ), Chengdu (358.2KM), Wuhan (339KM), Chongqing (329KM), Tianjin (233.2KM), Hangzhou (206KM).


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