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When trains arrive too soon

By Wen Ya (Global Times)

08:59, October 25, 2012

China's subway networks are set to enter a period of rapid expansion, with around 2 trillion yuan ($319.8 billion) being poured into constructing or expanding subways in 34 cities in the next half decade.

Liu Heming, a director from the urban construction department within the Ministry of Housing and Urban- Rural Development was quoted in the Oriental Morning Post as saying that this would be the fastest pace of urban rail development that China has ever seen, while Wang Mengshu, a vice general engineer with the China Railway Tunnel Group Co, told the Global Times that these projects would be finished in roughly three to five years, but overseas they tended to take seven to 10 years.

However, not everyone is convinced that this kind of speed is a good thing. The country has been wracked with accidents involving collapsed land caused by subway construction, even in top tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The fact that authorities are pushing to have the projects completed quickly is making the problem even worse.

In Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, about 20 land collapse accidents happened this summer, partly because of subway construction, sources inside subway construction companies told news magazine Caijing.

A runaway train

More and more cities are launching subway construction projects. In September alone, the National Development and Reform Commission approved 25 rail transit projects involving 18 cities at a cost of 800 billion yuan, according to the commission's website.

According to Liu, China has about 1,700 kilometers of urban rail. The 2 trillion yuan being invested will be used to construct a further 4,300 kilometers of lines in 34 cities, 2,000 kilometers of which is already under construction. These projects would more than triple the total length of urban railway lines in China.

This speed is far beyond the pace of construction in developed countries. By 2010, London had spent 147 years constructing 408 kilometers of subway lines, and New York took 106 years to build 370 kilometers. Paris spent 110 years building just 215 kilometers, Caijing reported.

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