Macau’s exclave in Mainland China

I knew Macau had a long history of land reclamation, which reached a peak when the islands of Taipa and Coloane were joined together to form the single island of Cotai. But the part of Macau I recently discovered is even stranger – the University of Macau campus located on land excised from Mainland China.

Sun goes down over Macau, with China only a short swim across the river

University of Macau, Hengqin Island

The University of Macau is located on a 1.09km2 piece of Hengqin Island in Guangdong Province, under a 40 year lease by the People’s Republic of China to the Macau SAR government.

On 20 December 2009 then-Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party Hu Jintao officiated at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new campus, following a decision by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China to authorise the Macau SAR government to exercise jurisdiction over the new UM campus.

In early 2013 the Macau Legislative Assembly passed Law 3/2013 providing for the application of Macau law in the campus effective on opening day, and on 5 November 2013 then Vice-Premier of the State Council Wang Yang officiated at the new campus inauguration ceremony. Classes started at the new campus for the 2014/2015 academic year.

An exclave in Mainland China

The campus is located across the water from Macau.

Separated by the Baía de Tai Van.

The teal area marked on this map.

Baidu Maps

A tall concrete wall prevents access to the rest of the Mainland China.

No way out by land.

And no way back in.

So the Public Security Police Force of Macau established their own police station on the campus.

As did the Macau Fire Services Bureau with their own fire station.

Designed to fit in with the rest of the campus.

But to remove the need for students to cross the border into China and back twice a day, the decision was made to construct a direct route into Macau – a 1,570 metre long underwater tunnel.

The four-lane traffic tunnel was constructed using cut-and-cover methods, and was divided into three sections: the Hengqin approach, a 530m long underwater section and the Macau approach. The underwater section is being constructed within a dried cofferdam with seawater pumped out to facilitate construction.

Going for a drive

The Macau portal of the 澳門大學河底隧道 (Túnel Para O Novo Campus Da Universidade De Macau) is located on Avenida Marginal Flor de Lotus in Cotai.

Down the ramp.

And towards the portal.

A few skylights ease the transition into the darkness of the tunnel.

Until your eyes adjust to the light.

The tunnel then curves to the right towards Hengqin Island.

Continuing downhill to pass under the water.

Back uphill, then a left turn.

Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel.

We see another set of skylights.

And now on Mainland China soil, but driving on the left hand side of the road.

Pedestrians aren’t left out

The underwater tunnel to the University of Macau also includes a separate pedestrian walkway.

With stairs and an escalator at each end instead of a long vehicle ramp, the pedestrian tunnel is only 500 metres long.

The only downside – the portal on the Macau side is in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

So taking a ride on the bus is a more popular option.

Stressing over cross-border security

As you might suspect for a land border between Mainland China and anywhere else, as soon as the new University of Macau campus was handed over, attempts were made to jump the fence to reach Macau’s jurisdiction.

China Daily photo

So banners reading “It is strictly forbidden to climb over the fence of the University of Macau, violators will be subject to administrative punishment” were hung on the fence, and troops from the Guangdong Provincial Frontier Defense Corp were sent to patrol the mainland side of the border.

China Daily photo

But still the attempts at sneaking in the fence continued, until the steel security fence on the mainland side was upgraded.

China Daily photo

And security guards posted on the university side of the fence.

China Daily photo

Leading to a reduction in smuggling cases from 51 to just six by August 2015.

And tunnel troubles

Before it was even completed, the tunnel to the University of Macau ran into trouble.

Witnesses working at the site told the media that six night-shift workers were operating at the Hengqin entrance of the tunnel, with four on the surface and two inside the tunnel. Workers on the surface reported hearing strange noises coming from the site and felt abnormal ground movements. They immediately informed tunnel workers through a wireless communication system to evacuate. The ground surrounding the tunnel entrance then collapsed, burying five pieces of heavy machinery inside the tunnel. Nobody was injured in the incident.

And the troubles didn’t finish after it opened – the tunnel started leaking!

An issue not addressed until 2020, when the tunnel was closed in stages so that repair works could be completed.

Footnote: wonky maps

Don’t bother trying to look at the University of Macau campus on Google Maps – the streets are all wonky and don’t line up with the aerial imagery.

The reason for this the Chinese Government – for national security reasons every map of China must be intentionally distorted.

My suggestion – take a look via Baidu Maps instead.


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‘Flying’ to Macau on a Boeing 929 Jetfoil

My favourite mode of transport in Hong Kong has to be the Boeing 929 Jetfoil – a passenger carrying waterjet-propelled hydrofoil that speeds across the waves between Hong Kong and Macau.

TurboJet operated Boeing 929 hydrofoil 'Guia' off Hong Kong Island

About the Boeing 929 Jetfoil

Boeing launched the first Boeing 929 Jetfoil in 1974, with three vessels entering service in the Hawaiian Islands until 1979, when the company collapsed.

The three hydrofoils were acquired by Far East Hydrofoil (now TurboJET) for service between Hong Kong and Macau, with further vessels entering their fleet in the years since.

Each jetfoil has two Rolls-Royce Allison 501KF gas turbine engines, propelling the vessel at speeds of up to 45 knots (83 km/h).

TurboJet Boeing 929 Jetfoil off Hong Kong

Off for a ride

Services depart the Hong Kong–Macau Ferry Terminal at Sheung Wan.

Shun Tak Centre and the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal

Then head west out of Victoria Harbour.

TurboJet Boeing 929 hydrofoil 'Terceira' leaves Hong Kong for Macau

Building up speed, until the foils lift the hull of the vessel out of the water.

TurboJet Boeing 929 Jetfoil 'Funchal' arrives back at Hong Kong Island

Leaving the city skyline behind.

TurboJet Boeing 929 hydrofoil 'Terceira' leaves Hong Kong for Macau

Passing the southern shore of Lantau.

TurboJet Boeing 929 Jetfoil 'Funchal' off Lantau Island

Then out into the open sea.

TurboJet hydrofoil cuts across the bow of tanker 'Golden Fareast' off Hong Kong Island

An hour later, we arrive into Macau.

TurboJet hydrofoil overtakes a New World First Ferry catamaran

Slowing down to pass beneath the Amizade Bridge.

TurboJet Boeing 929 jetfoil Cacilhas arrives at Macau

And then berth at the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal.

TurboJet Boeing 929 jetfoils at the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal

A few videos

Here we see TurboJet Jetfoil ‘Cacilhas’ arriving at the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal, followed by the departure of classmate ‘São Jorge’.

The startup noise from the two Rolls-Royce Allison 501KF gas turbine engines is music to *my* ears.

But the passengers onboard might not agree.

Yet something everyone should agree on – watching the Jetfoil rise out of the water is magical.

Tracking down the Jetfoils

TurboJet operates a number of different vessel types in their fleet, including a number of high speed catamaran ferries – so if you want to ride a Boeing 929 Jetfoil you can’t just jump on any Hong Kong – Macau service – you need to check the departure board.

Departure board at the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal

And then consult the TurboJet fleetlist to see which departures are being operated by a Jetfoil.

Departure board at the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal

Update for 2022

Since I first drafted this post, a lot has changed regarding the TurboJET fleet of Jetfoils – the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge in 2018 saw many passengers switch to bus services, and the COVID-19 pandemic saw the ferry service suspended indefinitely in February 2020.

The ‘Jetfoil Conservation Concern Group‘ was launched soon after, hoping to secure the preservation of the Jetfoil ‘Flores’, the first Boeing 929 to enter service.

Turbojet jetfoil 'Taipa' departs for Macau

But March 2021 saw the first Jetfoil scrapped – ‘Santa Maria’.

The Jetfoil Conservation Concern Group has issued a statement on Saturday expressing their sorrow over the dismantling of the Jetfoil “Santa Maria,” which was due to have started last Friday, according to the group.

Titled “Goodbye Santa Maria,” the statement hints that the dismantling of the longest-serving ferry between Hong Kong and Macau should have happened on March 19 at the Wang Tak shipyard in the neighboring region of Hong Kong.

Santa Maria was one of the two Jetfoils directly purchased by Boeing from the manufacturer known at the time as Far East Hydrofoils (it is now TurboJET) under the initiative of gaming tycoon Stanley Ho.

The ferry, named after one of the islands of Azores Archipelago in Portugal, serviced trips between the two regions from 1975 to 2019, without any significant failures or accidents in its record.

According to the group which is knowledgeable of the history of this type of vessel, the “Santa Maria,” is the record holder of the longest-serving jetfoil in the Hong Kong-Macau ferry route.

The last sailing of Santa Maria was a return journey to Hong Kong from Macau on August 14, 2019, at 6:30 p.m.

It was later followed on the scrap line by Jetfoils ‘Balsa’ and ‘Urzela’, with classmates ‘Pico’ and ‘Guia’ to follow.

Further reading

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Beijing’s dead end expressway

On my trip out to the Great Wall of China by train, I found something downright bizarre while staring out of the carriage window – a multi-lane expressway that terminated suddenly ended at a field of trees. So what gives?

End of the road - the G7 Expressway comes to a sudden dead end in Beijing

Tracking down the dead end

Luckily the ‘End Expressway’ sign I photographed one one big clue on it – the G7 route number.

So over to Baidu Maps, and I followed the route my train took north from Beijing, when I found this suspicious looking stub of expressway just south of Beijing’s 5th Ring Road.

Baidu Maps

And switching to satellite view confirmed it – this was the same dead end expressway that I’d photographed.

Google Earth

On the ground

I went to check the situation on the ground, but Google Street View doesn’t exist in China – but luckily Baidu Maps has their own similar service.

I started my virtual roadtrip on the G7 expressway headed southbound.

I soon reached the 5th Ring Road interchange, where I was greeted by a “End Expressway 2km” sign.

Baidu Maps

I then passed under the 5th Ring Road interchange itself.

Baidu Maps

And an “End Expressway 1km” sign.

Baidu Maps

Meanwhile traffic entering the G7 expressway from the 5th Ring Road was greeted with a “700m Yuequan Road” sign.

Baidu Maps

A little further along I could see a side road entering the expressway via right in / right out ramps.

Baidu Maps

Then the expressway started to narrow.

Baidu Maps

Down to one lane by the time I reached a “150m SLOW DOWN” sign.

Baidu Maps

I could now see the end was near.

Baidu Maps

And there it was – the “End Expressway” sign.

Baidu Maps

But it wasn’t over – time to do a u-turn and head back northbound.

Baidu Maps

An overhead sign indicating an exit to “Yuequan Road”.

Baidu Maps

Peeling away from the expressway.

Baidu Maps

With right in / right out ramps.

Baidu Maps

Until I was back where I started – the 5th Ring Road interchange.

Baidu Maps

A history

It turns out that the G7 Expressway isn’t just any road, but a 2,540 km journey that starts in Beijing and crosses several deserts before reaching Ürümqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the far northwest of China.

Within Beijing the first stage of the G7 Expressway opened north of the 6th Ring Road in 2008, followed by the section between Beiqing Road and the 5th Ring Road in 2011. The gap between the 6th Ring Road and Beiqing Road was closed in 2014, followed by the mysterious stub between the 5th Ring Road and Yuequan Road in 2015.

Google Earth imagery from 2010 shows early work on the G7 Expressway north of the 5th Ring Road.

Google Earth

And by 2012 work on an the extension south towards Yuequan Road can be seen.

Google Earth

By 2013 much of the roadway was in place.

Google Earth

In 2014 the Yuequan Road exit now looks to be open to traffic.

Google Earth

But with the G7 Expressway running directly into Yuequan Road.

Google Earth

With the current u-turn at the end of the expressway not appearing until 2015.

Google Earth

So why is there a dead end anyway?

My theory was that the dead end stub of the G7 Expressway was intended for a future extension southward, and this 2015 Chinese-language news article confirmed it – as well as explaining the reason it was built.

The Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway is connected to the road in the Fifth Ring Road
19 July 2015
Guo Chao

Yesterday, a 2.6-kilometer-long connecting line of the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway was opened. In the future, vehicles entering Beijing from the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway and the Fifth Ring Road will go to Xueyuan Road from Yuequan Road in Haidian District, and vehicles leaving Beijing can go to the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway and the Fifth Ring Road through Yuequan Road.

The Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway runs parallel to the Beijing-Tibet Expressway and is an important expressway in the northwest of Beijing. At present, the daily traffic volume of the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway has reached 100,000 vehicles. However, since the construction of the inner part of the Fifth Ring Road has not yet been carried out, citizens need to go around a section of the Fifth Ring Road to get on and off the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway, which is inconvenient to travel.

Zhou Zhengyu, director of the Municipal Transportation Commission, introduced in the morning that, in order to better play the functions of the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway, the Municipal Transportation Commission organized and implemented the traffic facilities improvement project for the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway connecting line in accordance with the congestion relief project mode. The opening of the connecting line can realize the Jingxin Expressway The connection with the surrounding road networks such as Yuequan Road, Maofang Road, Shuangqing Road and Xueqing Road is of great significance for alleviating traffic congestion in the surrounding areas.

Zhou Zhengyu also revealed that in the future, Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway will play a greater role. From the current Fifth Ring Road Jianting Bridge to the city, a new interchange will be built between Baofu Temple Bridge and Xueyuan Road on the Fourth Ring Road. It will also be directly connected to Wenhui Bridge in the Third Ring Road.

However, since the construction of the inner section of the fifth ring road of the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway is to be integrated with the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway, it needs to be determined according to the process of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway. There is currently no clear timetable.

The proposed extension took the G7 Expressway deeper into Beijing, following the elevated Line 13 of the Beijing Subway.

As well as the Beijing–Zhangjiakou Railway, which ran at ground level through densely populated districts.

But the upcoming Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway was given as a reason to delay the extension of the expressway.


Work started on the aforementioned Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway in 2016, when the Beijing end of the existing Beijing–Zhangjiakou Railway was closed to traffic, and replaced by the 5.33 km long double track Qinghuayuan Tunnel.

Which took new high-speed trains beneath the city streets from December 2019.

But progress on the G7 Expressway extension? Someone asked the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transportation this very question in August 2020, and got a detailed reply.

Your suggestion on eliminating the “broken road” on the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway (G7) has been received. We have conducted a serious study with the Municipal Public Security Bureau, the Municipal Planning and Natural Resources Commission, and the Haidian District Government, and hereby reply to the relevant situation as follows:

1. On the issue of clearing the “dead end road” of the national expressway

In 2013, the Ministry of Transport and the National Development and Reform Commission clarified the definition of the national expressway “dead end road” on the basis of full research and demonstration, and identified specific projects. Beijing includes: Beijing-Taiwan Expressway, Beijing-Qindao Expressway, and the Capital Area Ring Expressway. After 5 years of hard work, in 2018, Beijing opened up all the national expressways in the city to “dead end roads”.

2. Relevant situation of Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway

Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway is a national expressway, numbered G7. The starting point is Jianting Bridge on the North Fifth Ring Road, extending to the northwest. It is an important expressway in the northern part of the city and has been implemented as planned.

The south of the North Fifth Ring Road of Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway is “Jingbao Road”. The planned starting point is Wenhui Bridge on Xueyuan Road, and the end point is Jianting Bridge on North Fifth Ring Road. The total length is about 8.2 kilometers, of which the section from North Fourth Ring Road to North Fifth Ring Road is 2.8 kilometers long.

The road adopts the form of tunnel structure, parallels with the Beijing-Zhangjiakou intercity high-speed railway and shares the route. Because the road construction boundary is 2-3 meters away from the open-cut section of the high-speed railway, and 5-6 meters away from the shield section, the construction process requirements must be constructed and implemented simultaneously with the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway.

Stating the tight timelines for the construction of the railway, combined with the tight coridoor it was being built along, saw the expressway extension deprioritised.

3. Project progress

In 2016, the public company affiliated to the Shoufa Group has carried out research on the design plan and related preliminary work, and it was included in the construction plan of our commission in 2017. In order to promote the construction and implementation of Jingbao Road, in September 2017, our commission and the Municipal Housing and Urban-Rural Development Committee reached an agreement on the simultaneous implementation of the joint construction section of Jingbao Road and the Beijing-Zhangjiakou High-speed Railway.

Relevant construction procedures, the project unit can start construction. During the review of the design plan, due to various objective reasons such as the adjustment of the planning functions of the surrounding road network and the tight construction period of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway, the design plan has not been stable, resulting in the failure to realize the joint construction of the Beijing-Baobao Road and Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway section.

At present, the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway has been completed and opened to traffic. During its operation, the management requirements are that the impact of surrounding buildings on its structure should be controlled and the settlement index should be 2 mm upward and 1 mm downward. -3 meters, the existing construction technology and technical level cannot meet the operation requirements of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway, so the Jingbao Road cannot be constructed in the near future.

The Municipal Commission detailing the interim solutions put in place to deal with traffic.

4. Work has been carried out

(1) In order to solve the problem of the connection between Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway and local road network, in 2015, our commission organized the construction of the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway connecting line (about 2.6 kilometers in length), realizing the connection between Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway and Yuequan Road, Woolen Road, double The connection of the surrounding road networks such as Qinglu Road and Xueqing Road.

(2) In response to the traffic and travel problems of Tsinghua University, in 2017, our committee, together with the Municipal Public Security Bureau, Municipal Education Commission, and Haidian District Government, carried out comprehensive management around Tsinghua University, and adjusted the timing of signals and markings in Wudaokou and other areas. Ways; increased enforcement of illegal vehicles and illegal construction; promoted the extension of Tsinghua East Road to Heqing Road, the widening and reconstruction of Heqing Road, the widening and reconstruction of Chengfu Road pedestrian walkway, and the construction of the Heqing Road pedestrian overpass at the east gate of Tsinghua University Wait.

And what looks looks to be an acknowledgement that expanding an expressway into central Beijing might be a bad idea.

5. The next work arrangement

The access of Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway within the Fifth Ring Road will objectively increase the traffic pressure in the central city. In the next stage, our commission will continue to strengthen the research on the road network system in the region, continuously improve and improve the traffic conditions in the northwest region, and accelerate the construction of safe, convenient, An efficient, green and economical comprehensive transportation system can meet the diverse travel needs of the people to the greatest extent.

So will the G7 Expressway ever be extended – only time will tell.

Some dashcam videos

“Walking Joe’s Studio” has a dashcam video of the drive along the G7 Expressway, including taking the u-turn for the Yuequan Road exit – jump to the 11:30 mark.

Bilibili user “超牛的小霸王” also has a dashcam video of the same drive, but with a Chinese pop backing track – jump forward to the 5:45 mark.

Further reading

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Catching the train to the Great Wall of China

If you’re travelling to China then the Great Wall of China is probably on your list of must see sights. However you don’t need to sign up to a tour group to get out there, and get dragged to tourist traps and souvenir stores along the way – you can ride a train from Beijing right to the foot of the Great Wall at Badaling in a little over an hour.

Looking over the valley at Badaling

At the station

We started the day heading across Beijing by subway.

Line 2 crowds in morning peak at Xizhimen station

Bound for Line S2 of the Beijing Suburban Railway, which runs to the Great Wall at Badaling.

First off – we had to buy a ticket from the booking office.

Ticket office at Beijing North Railway Station

Then off to the waiting room until it was time for the train to depart.

Waiting room at Beijing North Railway Station

Out to the platform.

Platforms at Beijing North Railway Station

And our NDJ3 diesel multiple unit train was waiting in the platform.

Washing the trailing NDJ3 locomotive of our train

Time to take a seat.

Onboard a second class 25DT type carriage

And grab a snack from the dining car.

Drinks and snacks for sale from the buffet car

And away we go

Departure time, and we headed north out of Beijing.

Cyclists waiting at the level crossing on Xueyuan South Road in Haidian District for our train to pass

Leaving behind the 4th Ring Road.

Traffic on Beijing's 4th Ring Road

And level crossings a plenty.

Bikes, scooters, cars and buses all waiting for our train to clear the Shuangqing Road level crossing

We paralleled the elevated tracks that carry Line 13 of the Beijing Subway.

Line 13 of the Beijing Subway parallels the Jingbao Railway

Sped through little used suburban stations.

Sign at Qinghe railway station in northern Beijing

And railway goods yards.

Man stands beside the tracks, waiting for our train to pass

Diesel locomotives awaiting their next move.

China Railways diesel locomotive DF4 6047 waits in a siding outside Beijing

Locals wandering over the tracks.

Locals wait for our train to pass at Shahe railway station (沙河站)

Farewell to Beijing

As we continued north, eventually the suburbs started to thin out.

Cars outnumber cyclists in the northern Beijing suburb of Huilongguan Town

Quiet rivers.

Locals stand on the edge of the bridge as our train passes

But new apartment blocks were starting to make their move.

Apartment blocks in the northern suburbs of Beijing

Along with roads to nowhere.

Crossing over yet another Chinese road to nowhere

And even a driving school.

Beijing briving school, with their own road network

But eventually urban life gave way to farming in the countryside.

Farmland takes over from the northern suburbs of Beijing

The mountains appearing in the distance.

Mountains start to appear on the horizon

And we reached our first station stop, Nankou – 50 kilometres north of Beijing.

Nameboard at Nankou railway station

An important railway depot on the line.

Stabled carriages in the yard at Nankou railway station (南ロ车站)

Where we passed a second train coming the other way.

Nankou station, as we cross a NDJ3 locomotive on a train headed the other way

Then then we began the steep climb towards the Great Wall itself.

Heading up into the mountains near Juyong Pass

And on to the Great Wall

The terrain grew ever more mountainous.

Mountains of stone near Juyong Pass

Steel mesh preventing rockfalls onto the railway tracks.

Steel mesh prevents rockfalls onto the railway tracks

But winding our way through the mountains, at Juyong Pass we found what we came to see.

Billboards beside the Great Wall of China at Juyong Pass

The Great Wall of China!

First glimpse of the Great Wall of China from our train at Juyong Pass

We passed beneath the wall itself.

Great Wall of China viewed from our train at Juyong Pass

And continued climbing higher up into the mountains.

Transmission lines cross the mountains near the Great Wall

Time to zig and zag

Our train then paused at the switchback station of Qinglongqiao West.

Station nameboard at the switchback station of Qinglongqiao West

Where trains reverse direction.

Diagram showing the layout of Qinglongqiao station

Zig-zagging through a steep section of railway.

And we’ve arrived!

After our train reversed direction and took off down the other track, we soon arrived at our destination – Badaling station.

Leaving the train at Badaling for the Great Wall of China

And said farewell to our train.

NDJ3 diesel locomotive trails the train departing Badaling

Onto the Great Wall

After leaving the train, we had to make our way past tourist traps and car parks.

Looking up the Great Wall from the car park

But we made it – through the gate.

Passing through the gate at Badaling

And there it was.

Red flag flies over the Great Wall of China

Up onto the Great Wall.

Tourists everywhere at the entry to the Great Wall

Getting a fantastic view of where we had started.

Looking down on the tourist traps at Badaling

And how much further we could climb.

Looking over the valley at Badaling

Just don’t look down!

So many stairs on this section of the wall

In the distance I could just see Badaling railway station.

Badaling railway station, as viewed from the Great Wall

And a southbound train headed back to Beijing.

Looking down from the Great Wall to a southbound train departing Badaling station

As we continued along the wall, the crowds petered out.

Tourists start to peter out as you head along the wall

Until we reached the end of the line.

Newly restored section of the Great Wall south of Badaling, but not yet open to tourists

a newly restored section of the Great Wall not yet open to tourists.

Newly restored section of the Great Wall south of Badaling, but not yet open to tourists

So time to turn back.

Homeward bound

Back to Badaling station, passing through the usual security checks.

X-Ray machine for scanning baggage at Badaling station

And into the waiting room.

Waiting room at Badaling station

When our train arrived, it was a mad rush to get the best seats.

Passengers run down the platform at Badaling so they can get the good seats

But our seats still had a great view.

Jagged mountains near Juyong Pass

Station staff watching our train roll by.

Station master standing guard at Sanpu (三堡站) station

The last rays of sunshine striking the Great Wall at Juyong Pass.

Sun goes down on the Great Wall of China at Juyong Pass

As we left the mountains behind.

Scattered industry on the northern fridge of Beijing

And back to Beijing

Back down at Nankou, some people were headed home.

Street vendors still open for business in the evening

But others were still hard at work.

Team of workers digging away at the sides of a creek

Building new buildings.

Building an apartment block the old fashioned way

New suburbs creeping across the plains.

New buildings on the northern edge of Beijing

And more roads to nowhere.

Another little used multi-lane road in China

But eventually we reached Beijing.

Ad-hoc extensions to houses beside the railway tracks

Household life oblivious to the passing trains.

Domestic life in the northern suburbs of Beijing

Except for those waiting for our train to pass.

Cyclists and pedestrians waiting on Xueyuan South Road in Haidian District for our train to clear the level crossing

At one of many level crossings.

Bikes and scooters waiting for our train to pass at Qinghe railway station

And the little ones.

Domestic life in the northern suburbs of Beijing

Waving as we passed by.

Mother and son watch our train fly past

And the end

Back at where where we started the day.

NDJ3 locomotive ready to lead a train out of Beijing North railway station

I farewelled the train.

NDJ3 locomotive ready to lead a train out of Beijing North railway station

Then dodged the crowds making their way home north of Beijing.

Hoard of passengers ready to board the next train out of Beijing North railway station

Footnote: an update for the current day

Back when I visited the Great Wall in 2013, Line S2 departed from Beijing North station and travelled out of Beijing along a single track railway via multiple level crossings.

But since 2016 trains to the Great Wall along Line S2 now start at Huangtudian railway station, 15 kilometres to the north – accessed via Huoying station on Beijing Subway Line 8 and Line 13.

And in 2019 a second rail route to the Great Wall opened up – when high speed trains commenced serving the underground station of “Badaling Great Wall” on the Beijing–Zhangjiakou intercity railway.

For the most up to date information on the current situation, visit the How to take the train from Beijing to The Great Wall of China page by “The Man in Seat 61”.

Footnote: the Qinglongqiao switchback

On the climb up to Badaling there are two switchback station – the original station of Qinglongqiao opened in 1908 was part of the Jingbao Railway, the first railway designed and built by the Chinese.

But as traffic on the single track railway grew, the steep terrain made duplicating the existing route difficult. As a result, a second switchback at Qinglongqiao West was opened in 1962, northbound traffic using the new route.

And southbound traffic using the old.

More on the history of the switchback can be found in this Chinese language article.

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Ghost platforms on the Beijing Subway at Dongsishitiao

During my time wandering around the Beijing Subway I found a variety of stations to exploring, but the one that had me asking questions was at Dongsishitiao on Line 2.

DKZ16 trainset T410 arrives into Dongsishitiao station

Going for a wander

Opened in 1984, Dongsishitiao looks much like any other station build during the early phase of subway construction in Beijing.

DKZ16 trainset T436 arrives into Dongsishitiao station

With an island platform.

Platform level at Dongsishitiao station

Mosaic murals on the walls.

Murals opposite the platform at Dongsishitiao (东四十条站) station

Stairs at the end of the platform.

Platform level at Dongsishitiao station

Connecting to an overhead bridge.

DKZ16 trainset T424 arrives into Dongsishitiao station

But in the middle of the platform was something off – a set of locked up stairs.

Provision for a future intersecting subway line at Dongsishitiao (东四十条站) station

Leading down into a basement.

Provision for a future intersecting subway line at Dongsishitiao (东四十条站) station

So where did they lead?

A ghost platform

When I got home, Wikipedia gave me the answer – it’s a whole other platform!

Which has lay idle for years.

The lower level of Dongsishitiao Station has a reserved platform for the future Line 3. The platform was built during the construction of Dongsishitiao Station, but its use was shelved because the construction plan of Line 3 was changed many times.

Although cleaners come to clean from time to time, a layer of dust has accumulated on the platform, especially at both ends of the platform, and there are slogans such as “Eliminate the Four Harms” left over from the early days on the walls. There are only simple movable railings at the entrance and no guards, so sometimes curious passengers enter this platform.

Idle so long that it no longer meets current standards.

The platform was designed to serve 6 car trains and Type B carriages. However, when construction on Line 3 was planned to restart in 2016, it was intended to use 8 car trains and Type A cars, so the existing reserved platform cannot be used. As a result the decision was made to convert the original reserved platform to a transfer hall, and build a replacement platform deeper underground for Line 3.

The construction of Beijing Subway Line 3 is a saga in itself.

In 1973, the Beijing subway plan was expanded from “one ring and two lines” to eight lines.

At this time, the northwest section of Line 3 was similar to the original Phase III project, but it did not stop at Xizhimen, but went all the way east through Dongsishitiao and turned towards the Capital Airport. According to the plan, the Xiyi section of Line 3 and the section from Gongti to Jiuxianqiao will be constructed between 1976 and 1980, and the Xizhimen to Gongti section will be constructed between 1980 and 1985.

But no matter which section it was, it could not be constructed as scheduled. At that time, the second phase of the subway project had not yet been completed, and the planning of Line 3 had also undergone adjustments. For example, in 1983, the west end of Line 3 was extended to Xiangshan; in 1993, the northeast section of Line 3 was added to Wangjing. “The scale of the city is getting bigger and bigger, and the changes of Line 3 also took into account the needs of development at that time.” Wan Xuehong said.

In the 1990s, Line 3 was put on the agenda again. Then 1999, the Line 13 was added in the adjustment of the line network. This is the current line 13, and construction was started in 1999, and line 3 was then put down again.

After several balances, Line 3 was formally shelved during the last round of construction plans, and it did not appear in the 2007 version of the recent plan. It was not until the 2015 version of the Beijing subway plan that Line 3 reappeared.

But Line 3 will eventually open in 2023, almost 40 years after the station for Line 2 opened.

And reserved platforms elsewhere on Line 2

The construction of Beijing Metro Line 2 Phase II saw six out of the 12 new stations provided with reserved platforms for interchange with future lines.

  • Fuxingmen Station: transfer platform with the west section of Line 1, opened on 28 December 1987.
  • Jianguomen Station: transfer platform with east section of Line 1, opened 28 September 1999.
  • Xizhimen Station: transfer platform with proposed Line 3, opened as Line 4 on 28 September 2009.
  • Jishuitan Station: transfer passage with proposed Line 4, opened as transfer to Line 19 on 31 December 2021.
  • Yonghegong (Lama Temple) Station: transfer platform with Line 5, opened on 7 October 2007 as a staggered island platform, using one reserved track alongside a widened island platform.

And the sixth one – Dongsishitiao.

Footnote: carriage sizes

Metro trains in China are built to two major standards – 3.0 meter wide Type A trains, and 2.8 meter wide Type B trains.

Further reading

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