Mind the Gap? Tube lines in London, Beijing, and Shanghai

Posted by on Oct 4, 2015 in Beijing, London, Shanghai, Trains, Travel | No Comments

02:30 (UTC±00:00 +DST), 04 OCT 2015 | GBR HARROW, GREATER LONDON


I’ve done the entire London Tube system before I tackled those in Beijing and Shanghai, and I’ve been in both cities in China longer than what some might call “healthy”. (For Beijing, that’s 14 years in one go; for Shanghai, these included two visits in just one month in July 2009.)

So when my wife thought it was high time to “guide Brits coming into China for the trains”, I thought that it was also high time to introduce Britons to the way the rails work in China. Apart from a full-fledged post on Tracking China, I also took the time to compare the Beijing and Shanghai equivalents of London’s Central, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, and Victoria lines — or what could be the closest equivalents.

And this is when I ask all Londoners, Beijingers, and Shanghai folks to chime in. Is what I am posting below absolute rubbish — or can you somehow relate to these?…

Central line

  • Beijing: Lines 1 or 6. Both run through the city centre out into the suburbs. The only difference is Line 1 has to make you change to the Batong Line at Sihui or Sihui East for the continuation further east, whereas Line 6 is designed to do a full sprint from west to east. However, Line 1 does go through the heart of the city via Tian’anmen, where Line 6 is just one main avenue further away to the north.
  • Shanghai: Line 2. This is the city’s main west-east axis, although the airport connections at both ends could have one thinking it was the city’s equivalent of the Piccadilly line as well. Line 2 goes from both air and rail hubs through Zhongshan Park, Jing’an Temple, Nanjing West and East Roads, People’s Square, Lujiazui, Century Avenue, and Longyang Road.

Metropolitan line

  • Beijing: Line 15. Mirrored (as the suburban part is in the east, not the west) when compared to London’s Met line, Line 15 links the universities and Olympic Green with the far northeastern suburbs of Shunyi — even going further north than the airport. Its northeasternmost terminus is Fengbo, virtually unknown to all but the locals by the nearby Chaobai River.
  • Shanghai: Line 11. The northern half of this line looks eerily similar to the London variant — except for the Uxbrige and Chesham links, it’s basically much the same, with a branch to Anting and Kunshan, and another to Jiading (almost the same as the Amersham and Watford branches, respectively). However, whereas London’s Met line terminates in The City at Aldgate, Shanghai’s variant crosses central Shanghai, past the hugely important Xujiahui hub, to terminate in the southern (nearly southeastern) suburbs at Luoshan Road.

Northern line

  • Beijing: Line 4 and Daxing line. It is now possible to take a train from the northernmost terminus of Line 4, Anheqiao North, straight to the southernmost reaches of the Daxing line. Unlike the Northern line, there are no branches in Beijing. But it does go through a huge chunk of the city centre — the universities, parks, shopping centres, and three train stations. The southernmost terminus is almost as far south in Beijing as Morden is in Greater London.
  • Shanghai: Line 8. Shiguang Road, the line’s northernmost terminus, may not be as “rural” as Edgware, High Barnet, or Mill Hill East, but it does pass through much of the city centre — via People’s Square and the Shanghai 2010 Expo site no less — and it does end up very south through to the little-known Shendu Highway.

Piccadilly line

  • Beijing: Line 17 (under construction). Line 17, now being built, will run from the far, far suburban parts in the north by the Future Science Park in the north through central Beijing to terminate not far from the Yizhuang Business and Economy Zone in the southeast. In this sense, the northernmost part will be more a la the Uxbridge branch. The “central” factor is as this line runs straight through parts very close to the heart of the Beijing CBD. The other equivalent is Line 14.
  • Shanghai: Line 1. Easily a carbon-copy almost in terms of the direction (except for the Uxbridge branch), it is only missing the airport connection. Line 1 runs from the city’s main train station all the way via People’s Square and Huaihai Road, the city’s shopping street much loved by locals, to the south station and the stadia in southwestern urban Shanghai. Like the Piccadilly line, its two “ends” are more suburban (especially the newly opened part between Gongfu Xincun and Fujin Road).

Victoria line

  • Beijing: Line 9. By 2021, the extended Line 9 will only have 4 stations out of a grand total of 15 stations (as planned) which are not interchanges. Interchange-wise, it will also sport at least 3 cross-platform interchanges (a la Stockwell, Oxford Circus, Euston, and Finsbury Park). Like the Victoria line, it will also have a central terminus (Brixton for London; Mingguangqiao West (under construction) for Beijing) and a not-so-central terminus (Walthamstow Central on the Victoria line; Guogongzhuang on Line 9).
  • Shanghai: Line 12. This line will sport 12 interchange stations in a row (when the whole network is completed), the exact same number on the Victoria line (between Victoria and Walthamstow Central). Like London’s variant, it will run through central Shanghai, with stops along Huaihai Road, Nanjing West Road, and the Shanghai Expo site.