Shanghai`s subway system in comparison to Berlin and Munich

There is justified admiration for the scope and speed of China´s construction of its public transportation infrastructure as a form of green urban transportation. In this short article, we want to shed light on the development and status of public rail network in Beijing and Shanghai by comparing their subway infrastructure to the urban public rail infrastructure of the two German cities Berlin and Munich. On first glance, Beijing and Shanghai have over the past years strongly outperformed the two German cities when considering the growth and length of the subway network (see Figure 1).To get more shanghai subway, you can visit shine news official website.

However, as this short article shows: despite the rapid growth from just one subway line with just a bit more than 40 km in length in the 1990s in both Chinese cities to today`s combined 1200 km, there is still need for further development which both cities are working hard on.

Beijing started constructing its subway in 1965 when less than 4 million people were living in the city. Shanghai meanwhile built its first subway line in 1993, at a time when the city counted about 9 million people. Since then, both cities not only grew their populations to more than 20 million inhabitants each; both cities also expanded their metros to become the longest (Shanghai) and second longest (Beijing) subway networks in the world with a length of 650km and 550km connecting 382 and 339 subway stations respectively. Figure 2 shows Beijing`s and Shanghai`s population growth and its subway network length from 1975 to 2015. Figure 3 shows the development of Beijing`s and Shanghai`s subway network length and number of stations from 1975 to 2015.

The history of public rail transportation in both Munich and Berlin goes back about 150 years. Berlin built the first horse-pulled tram in the world in 1865. Subsequently in 1881, Berlin started operating the world`s first electric tram. Berlin opened its first subway in 1902 and within 30 years built around 100 subway stations. Munich had its first electrified tram in 1895, but it took the city until 1972 to open underground public urban transportation (during the Munich Olympics).

Contrary to Beijing and Shanghai where public rail transport is dominated by subways (with the exception of Beijing`s airport and Xijiao line as well as Shanghai`s maglev), Berlin and Munich offer a wider array of urban passenger rail options:For the purpose of this article, we only look at subways and suburban rails in Munich and Berlin (i.e. we leave out the trams), when comparing it to Beijing`s and Shanghai`s subway system. Today, Munich has built around 200km of subway and S-Bahn tracks for its 1.5 million urban inhabitants (about twice as much for its metropolitan area). Berlin boasts around 400 km of tracks for its 3.6 million people living in the city (without the metropolitan area).

With the impressive expansion of Beijing´s and Shanghai´s metro system particularly over the past 15 years, a question that often gets asked is, whether China`s urban metro system is becoming the yardstick of subway systems. People tend to look at the length of the subway network and often are impressed how Beijing and Shanghai overtook the hitherto longest subway networks in New York or London in such a short time.

However, as length in itself is not the best yardstick of the public rail transportation quality, we analyzed in a simple first step how Beijing and Shanghai are comparing in terms of relative accessibility. Particularly we wanted to understand how big the average “catchment” area per subway station as well as per urban rail network kilometer is and how many people share one subway station in the four cities. For this analysis, we used all types of urban rail transport in Beijing and Shanghai (except the maglev train) and the U-Bahn and S-Bahn in Berlin and Munich. As mentioned above, we left out trams (with 172/808 stations and 82km/296km of network length in Munich/Berlin), and other rail-based public infrastructure of the two cities (e.g. regional trains that also connect different parts of the cities).

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