Passengers queue up to board a train in Guangzhou, a city that boasts the highest subway ridership in China. Photo: Xinhua

Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the two largest and most affluent urban centers in southern China, have both inaugurated new metro lines this month to further boost their cobwebs of subway lines.

Resembling high-speed bullet trains, the new cars will travel at 130 kilometers per hour along Guangzhou’s 61.5km Line 21 linking the city’s downtown area to a major commuter town by the end of the year. The addition will bring the total system length of Guangzhou’s metro network to 513km.

In comparison, New York City has 394km of tracks in service and London has 402km. While these subway systems have been serving the two Western metropolises for more than a century, Guangzhou did not open its first line until 1997.

The trade and commerce boom of southern China has produced a sprawling network of metro lines that have edged past numerous Western cities over the past two decades, a shining example of the infrastructure bonanza in top-tier Chinese cities.

Aggressive plans for 13 new lines will keep the momentum going as Guangzhou carries through with plans to add another 300km to its network by 2023, according to Guangzhou Metro Group. By comparison, Hong Kong’s MTR subway system took 40 years to build its 271km network.

Guangzhou opened its first metro line in 1997. Photo: Asia Times
Lines in operation and under construction of Guangzhou’s sprawling metro system, which has 513km of tracks in service. Photo: Handout

A rush-hour ride on the often congested Guangzhou Metro suggests that the megacity of 15 million residents needs even more lines to alleviate congestion and keep the city moving. Metro lines have extended into all of the city’s 11 districts.

Guangzhou Metro’s average daily ridership is nine million passengers as of November, the highest in China. It carried 11.13 million passengers, a new record, on September 30.

Guangzhou’s metro system now has 513km of tracks and 233 stations in service.
Passengers flow in a station concourse. Photo: Xinhua

Shenzhen has also opened its 36km Line 9 earlier this month, bringing the total system length to 300km.

An army of tunneling machines is busy boring 14 new lines totaling 264km. They are expected to be operational within the next five years, according to the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily.

Other lines on the planning table will eventually connect Guangzhou and Shenzhen as the sprawling cities expand along both sides of the Pearl River, now being referred to as the “Greater Bay Area.”

High-speed railways, metro lines, expressways, beltways and bridges serving Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macau and other cities intersect in the bourgeoning manufacturing and innovation hub to form one of the world’s most densely built-up areas.

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