■ 01:06 (UTC±00:00 +DST), 05 APR 2016 | GBR HARROW, GREATER LONDON
It had every last David Feng element possibly conceivable on the planet. A microphone. A stage. Trains. Subways. HSR trainsets. Audiences. Comparisons between the Metropolitan line and Beijing’s Line 1 and the Batong Line extension. UK spelling. Received pronunciation. The wife. The Mac. A transport museum. In London.
The audience at the London Transport Museum was wowed for an hour as I did my shtick — a one-hour presentation on From A to B in London and Beijing. Everything was fully localised for a London audience. Miles per hour appeared next to their SI equivalents, and the Victoria line was shown its Beijing counterpart.
In the London Transport Museum’s Cubic Theatre, over 80 were seated as they discovered how the Chinese rails and roads worked. There was a full “visa waiver” of sorts as pictures of Beijing’s infrastructure, still very much evolving, was shown to the audience — without them needing to spend a penny on transport or visas.
Opting just before the talk began for a clip-on mic to maximise stage flexibility, I first started with a fact-and-distance check: the easternmost end of the bridge by the Tube platforms at Upminster, in essence the closest point on the Tube network to Beijing from inside the M25, was 5,302⅔ miles (8,099.2 km) away. That station was a new late 2015 addition: Changping Xishankou station, which I predicted would easily fall prey to yet more urban sprawl.
Immediately next were quick histories of the London Underground and the Beijing Subway, where the audience was wowed with the fact that 1971 prices for the Beijing system were a measly ¥ —.10 (that figure today, ¥ —.10, would be 1p!). Beijing’s variant of the Oyster card, the Yikatong card, was also shown. Finally, an introduction to Beijing’s newest addition to come later this year, Line 16, was also given — in addition to a note that it was relief to expats coming in for the obligatory health inspection test (if they filed an application for residency in China). The screen was next a dizzying-yet-orderly potpourri of colour, as I introduced the audience to the current Beijing Subway network, then added a few new extra lines for those to come by the time the Beijing & Zhangjiakou 2022 Winter Olympics would be in town.
Comparisons were then made between London’s Central line and Beijing’s Line 1 and the Batong Line extension, between the Circle line inside the M25 and the Jing’s Line 2, between the Northern line in the UK capital and the Chinese capital’s Line 5, and the Jubilee line, Victoria line, and Lines 4 and 9. A quick HSR section next followed, with a video clip (from UK media itself) shown, and some shocking facts revealed — 60% of the world’s HSR track was in China, and Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei will soon host 1,000 km of regional express rail. A plan of China’s HSR network by 2030 was also shown, as were pictures of Chinese railway stations and HSR trains.
Skimming quickly over road and motorway infrastructure, the final part of the presentation focused on the late Zaha Hadid’s new creation: Beijing Daxing International Airport. When that, combined with Capital Airport’s 4th runway, is done, Beijing will have as many runways as London — even if Heathrow or Gatwick (one only!) is given a new one.
Followed by a 10 to 15-minute Q & A session, the talk ended in applause — with some real compliments headed my way by LTM Friends leaders and members of the audience alike. Here’s a quick word of thanks to all that came; and if you do happen to hit Beijing soon, please do be in touch with me — we’ll talk! ■ ■ ■