SHANGHAI – Away from the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s largest and most populous cities, thousands of workers drill the ground beneath the eastern Chinese city of Shanghai to expand its subway system, as it races to retain its position as the largest metro train network in the world.
Tunnel boring machines work from sunrise to sundown everyday in this city of 30 million inhabitants, to link stations with one another via a passage measuring 6.76 meters (22.2 feet) in diameter.
Speaking to EFE, Ying Boxuan, an engineer working on what is set to be the Shanghai network’s Line 14, said the stations are built first and then connected to each other, making gradual headway at the rate of some 10 meters per day.
The first Shanghai metro line was inaugurated in January 1993; by the end of 2016, the network was already covering a total distance of 617 kilometers (383 miles), comprising 15 lines and 367 stations, including the high velocity Maglev train that runs to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.
According to figures supplied by Shao Weizhong, head of the Shanghai Metro operator, more construction projects are underway that will add another 216 km to the network.
By late 2017, three new metro lines totaling 55 km will be completed while the total operational distance will surpass 830 km by the end of 2020.
However, a better indication of the magnitude of the Shanghai subway system is the number of people who use it.
In 2016, the metro recorded an average of 9.28 million people or trips per day, although on working days this figure rose higher to 10.65 million.
At 617 km, Shanghai Metro is the world’s largest rapid transit system by route length and second-largest by number of stations, Shao said, adding that the future aim is to build a “safe, human, green, scientific and smart” subway system.
But more than just improvements, Shanghai Metro’s expansion plans are also an effort for the metro to remain the global number one in terms of track length, as the metro in Chinese capital Beijing – the world’s second largest – has also lined up a score of projects to add over 350 km to its existing 574 km network.
According to local authorities, 2017 is the biggest construction year in the history of the Beijing Metro, which caters to an average 11 million passengers every day.
Upon conclusion of these ongoing projects, the Beijing suburban train network would stretch across a total of 999 km, and serve a breathtaking 18.5 million commuters a day.