If you were travelling clockwise on the 4th Ring Road and wanted to head north (coming in from the west) at Wanquan River Bridge (Wanquanhe Qiao), previously you had to use the slip road and wait for maybe two or three sets of traffic lights. They were timed so badly, you could have started with some kind of artwork masterpiece just by using moving your gearstick around as if it was a paintbrush! (I refer, of course, to those of us with proper cars, not those artificialised automated gear change systems.)
The good news is that the city authorities finally installed a separate “hook” bridge avoiding traffic queues — and that bridge opened to traffic today. It was still artistic as in it had plenty of curves, but now your wheels, not gearstick, would move like a paintbrush. The very bad news was that it was truly poorly designed. Of course to remove the “hook” bridge would be suicidal, but still, City Hall better think hard about how projects are to be completed with grace! ▶
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make China’s HSR great. Like, say, the 261 km long Tianjin-Qinhuangdao HSR. At just 163 miles, this is hardly a major trunk line in one of the world’s largest countries, but it links the high speed lines between Beijing and northeastern China via Tianjin, Qinhuangdao, and the coast. This new line has allowed “full” HSR services to connect northeast China with Shanghai.
The new Zhengzhou-Xuzhou HSR isn’t massive, either, at “only” 362 km. Yet, for its mere 225 miles or so, this new line, good for speeds upwards of 350 km/h (217 mph), formed a crucial link — it was the first rail line good for such high speeds to connect between two of China’s most vital north-south HSR routes — the Beijing-Hong Kong and Beijing-Shanghai HSR routes. It also meant that my long-awaited connection from Xi’an (where I’ve ancestral roots) to Shanghai is finally reality. Most trains that run on this line “borrow” it to reach their final destination. ▶
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. ▶
This bit of National Expressway G45 in south Beijing that just opened in early December 2010 is pretty short in length, and yet it forms part of the bigger Daqing-Guangzhou (Daguang) Expressway in China. Beijingers (as of this post) are only getting the stretch from the old Beijing-Kaifeng (Jingkai) Expressway to the next exit, the Luqiu Highway, open. To make sure that cars don’t overwhelm the exit, for the time being, the expressway is being confined to a single file, oddly enough.
I drove on this stretch of the expressway just for the sake of it. Unlike the old Jingkai Expressway, the new Daguang Expressway feels much smoother (especially on the way back) as it has little traffic flow (for now) and sports three lanes per direction instead of two.
Once upon a time, the old expressway ended a few miles away from the boundary with Hebei province, and nobody thought it’d continue further south as nearby Hebei simply didn’t get on with the programme and build its part. The new expressway solves the connection issue, so to speak, with Hebei. ▶