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Here it Comes ! China’s Longest Subway Across 5 Cities

Here it Comes ! China’s Longest Subway Across 5 Cities

Greater Bay Area: A City in the Making

Introduction of the ‘Super Subway’

A major transportation development is on the horizon for the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in China. The soon-to-be-operational Guang-Fo South Ring and Fo-Guang intercity railways will integrate with the existing Fo-Zhao and Guan-Hui intercity rails. This will create a 258-kilometer-long transportation artery linking Guangzhou, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhaoqing, and Huizhou.

A New Era of Intercity Rail

While intercity railways are not a novel concept, the distinguishing feature of this project is its “metro-like” operation. Unlike traditional railways managed by the national railway authorities, these lines are operated by metro companies. The stations, signage, and announcements will closely resemble those of a metro system, though fare structures may differ.

The operation mode includes frequent stops and express services, allowing for a more flexible and commuter-friendly experience. Passengers will enjoy the convenience of no advance ticket purchases and the ability to use standard transportation cards, a stark contrast to conventional high-speed or intercity trains.

This is not the first instance of such an operational model; previous examples include the Guang-Shen railway, Guang-Qing intercity, and Guangzhou East Ring intercity railways. In the near future, the entire Greater Bay Area is expected to be interconnected by a vast network of “intercity subways,” creating a seamless urban experience with unified ticketing systems and comprehensive connectivity.

Implications of ‘Intercity Subways’

China’s existing transportation networks include high-speed railways, intercity railways, and urban transit systems such as metros and trams. Historically, these systems were distinct, managed by different entities with clear boundaries. Railways focused on long-distance travel between cities and provinces, while metros served urban areas and their immediate surroundings.

The integration of these systems reflects the needs of modern urbanization, characterized by metropolitan regions and urban agglomerations. As cities expand and merge, the demand for cross-city connectivity grows, making integrated transit systems essential. This shift allows cities to leverage metro-like operations for intercity travel, effectively bypassing traditional limitations on metro construction due to economic or population constraints.

Currently, only a fraction of China’s cities have metro systems due to stringent requirements related to GDP, fiscal health, and population size. However, the strategic development of metropolitan regions and urban agglomerations provides a new avenue for smaller cities to achieve their “metro dreams” through intercity rail projects. These projects, operated in a metro-like fashion, offer a practical solution to enhance regional connectivity and support urban growth.

Guangdong’s Leading Role

The Greater Bay Area, encompassing 11 cities, is China’s most advanced urban agglomeration, already functioning like a single, sprawling metropolis. The Guangzhou and Shenzhen metropolitan regions, in particular, are models of high integration. The area’s infrastructure includes the world’s largest manufacturing base, dense networks of airports and ports, and an extensive high-speed and intercity rail system.

Key infrastructure projects, such as the Deep-Zhong channel and the Humen Bridge, are knitting the region closer together. The goal is to achieve a “one-hour living circle,” where commuting between cities within an hour becomes the norm. The Greater Bay Area’s integration is further evidenced by the extensive cross-city commuting patterns, with a daily intercity commuting population exceeding 1.2 million people and daily travel volumes surpassing 6 million trips.

Conclusion

The Greater Bay Area’s transformation into a cohesive urban entity is underpinned by robust economic activity, significant population density, and dynamic innovation. The emergence of intercity subways is both a product and a driver of this integration. By enhancing connectivity and reducing travel barriers, these developments reflect the area’s evolution into a single, interconnected urban landscape, poised for continued growth and development.

The introduction of China’s longest intercity “metro” line marks a significant milestone in the Greater Bay Area’s journey towards becoming a unified metropolitan region, setting a precedent for other regions to follow.

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