A History of Beijing’s Subway
Government Planners looked to Moscow’s design, which began operation in 1935. First proposed in 1953, Chinese leaders decided on a subway rather than above-ground transport partially out of a desire to create a means of transportation in and out of the central city that couldn’t easily be destroyed by conventional bombs, reportedly admiring how Moscow’s stations were used as effective bomb shelters for civilians. Construction began in 1965 with the first line opening 1969.
A second line was opened to the public (built and opened in the 1970s but only for government use) in 1984, and no further new lines were opened until 2002, although there were expansions of the first two lines.
In 2001 Beijing won the bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, which helped make expanding the transportation capacity of China’s capital city a high priority. Beginning with the opening of Line 13 (which is only the 3rd line) in 2002, Beijing has entered a period of rapid expansion of the subway system, including above-ground lines, to it’s current configuration of 16 lines and 442 kilometers, which accounts for ¼ of all kilometers of metro railway in China.
Plans for the future are to keep expanding the metro at an ever-increasing pace, with a goal of expanding China’s metro rail systems to 10 times their current size by 2050, with Beijing’s system being a top priority.
Even with this immense growth, Beijing’s metro is barely the largest in China; Shanghai is a close second with 437 kilometers of track (which only opened in 1995), giving China both the first and second longest metro systems on Earth.
Moscow’s began in 1935 and saw steady expansion through the mid-90s, with only a few kilometers added in the last 20 years.