Every year, at this time, we’d see millions and billions take to the rails, roads, and air, as this nation of 1.3+ billion and coming make their way home to their ancestral homes — back to their grandparents and parents — just for that classic meal, the dinner on New Year’s Eve in the Chinese calendar… For 2017, I’ve decided to take part in this by not just launching a Twitter topic on it (#Chunyun), but to make a difference and trial new brochures helping people. And also to broadcast this live to the wider world audience.
It’s been said Chinese railway tickets are a blessing and a curse. The blessing being that you’re booked onto one train, with one credit card-sized ticket telling you everything from which gate to use, which train you’re booked onto, when you’ll set off, and what seat will be yours. Unfortunately, the curse is that they’re all in Mandarin Chinese…
Except for that I didn’t want this to hold true forever. Having talked to quite a number of seasoned expat travellers, I decided to create (using Apple Pages) a brochure describing what this, that, or the other thing would be on the ticket — in both Mandarin Chinese and English. There was also a card for passengers who’d have lost their ticket, and need help getting a replacement. ▶
In Switzerland our only “really” global airport is not located in the Federal City (much the equivalent of a “real” capital in other countries), Bern, but Zürich. It is only the “real” 100% Swiss airport of a major dimension (since the airports in Geneva and Basel have connections to nearby France, but all exits at Zürich Airport lead solely to Swiss territory).
We are somewhat satisfied with our 3-runway (or two-and-a-sort-of-half runway) airport, which is in a well-forested part of suburban Zürich. We completed around a decade back the new Fingerdock E, which is where most intercontinental flights land. The inside of the airport has also been massively redone, from the toilets to the concourses and shopping areas. The inside of the Airside Centre, in fact, feels not much unlike Shanghai Pudong!
However, it is the explosive growth of Beijing’s new air hub — Daxing International Airport, as it is sometimes known — that simply wows me in full. A few days back, I took my car for a spin, dashcam and other imaging devices ready, hoping to catch a glimpse of the new airport in the making. What I saw was enough to make me faint: basically miles on end of cranes and construction sites meaning that this new airport was about to become reality — very soon! ▶
It’s not a David Feng talk if it’s not about trains. With the population of just over two Londons moving from the countryside to the city every year across China, something will have to carry them. And whilst the country may have pretty much the largest national motorway network on the planet, it’s also home to over two-thirds of the world’s HSR tracks.
This already-massive network — at 19,000 km (11,806 miles) — is expected to grow even more by 2020, with figures by then to hit 30,000 km (18,641 miles) for the entire nationwide HSR network. With most trunk lines running at no less than 300 km/h (186 mph), this is going to be one of the most efficient ways to get across the country.
My talk on 12 April 2016 at the London Book Fair introduced urbanisation in China and its effects, with a focus on infrastructure. ▶
It had every last David Feng element possibly conceivable on the planet. Trains. Subways. HSR trainsets. Audiences. Comparisons between the Metropolitan line and Beijing’s Line 1 and the Batong Line extension. 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. 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. ▶
Photo credit: Liang Bo
That’s me doing Rail English again for China. Just a few days back, I was appointed Railway English Consultant for Ji’nanxi (Ji’nan West) and its subordinate stations, which include stations from Taian to Zaozhuang. Some time earlier, I also did much the same at Xuzhoudong (Xuzhou East) station, which basically meant that if you’re travelling between these stations, you should see serious improvements in Rail English.
As of late there’s one other very welcoming development: the Beijing-Shanghai HSR has been showered by the central government in China, giving it top honours in a national science and technology progress awards ceremony.
It is no secret this is now one of China’s busiest HSR routes. Trains G1 through to G22, which generally run the 1,318 km (824 mi) stretch in less than 5 hours’ time, are amongst the most popular trains in the nation, both amongst locals and expats, as well as visitors from abroad. With the line as popular and as award-winning as it is, the next big goal my end would be to make it China’s first 100% bilingual line. ▶
As someone who’s been in Beijing for 14+ years, I’ve seen it all. When I was born back in the 1980s, the skies were fair. Back in the early 2000s, they were worse, yes, but not to the extent that you got smog day in, day out. On 27 February 2014 we had our sunniest day yet so far, and yet just a day later we get more and more grey.
I’m no certified scientific professional in all this, but from the commoner’s point of view, given my mileage and seeing how other cities got it right, I think the city of Beijing needs a serious change to the way things work. For smog to go, we need smarter city management — in particular when it comes to getting from A to B. Here are just some of my ideas… ▶
It seems like the city is serious getting its traffic bugs ironed out as quickly as the jams are coming on. We’ve heard reports that the Western Suburban Line (to the Fragrant Hills) will come in the form of a tram, and that monorails are planned over Yuquan Road and the Eastern 4th Ring.
Yet again, the city’s planning authorities have shown its plain ignorance and blindness to the way things actually are when it comes to the Eastern 4th Ring’s new monorail. ▶