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In less than 30 years, Shenzhen has grown from fishing villages with barely 310,000 residents into nowadays one of the biggest and most modern cities in China. Sitting next to Hong Kong, across the border of Sham Chun River, it is the home to 13 million inhabitants, the busiest shipping ports and a major manufacturing and research centre. With an exploding population and economy, Shenzhen is facing huge pressure on transportation. Shenzhen became the 6th Chinese city with metro, after Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou. Opened in 2004, the Shenzhen metro is a modern system with platform screen doors and a contactless smart card "TransCard". It also connects with the Hong Kong metro system at Luohu and Futian Checkpoint , where passengers can interchange to Hong Kong East Rail, after passing customs clearance.


 Line 1 - Luobao Line

41 km - 30 stations

28-12-2004: Luohu - Window of the World (Shijiezhichuang)
28-09-2009: Window of the World (Shijiezhichuang) - Shenzhen University (3.4 km)
15-06-2011: Shenzhen University - Airport East

 Line 2 - Shekou Line

36 km - 29 stations

28-12-2010: Window of the World - Chiwan (15.5 km)
28-06-2011: Window of the World - Xinxiu

 Line 3 - Longgang Line

42 km - 30 stations

28-12-2010: Caopu - Shuanglong (25 km)
28-06-2011: Caopu - Yitian

 Line 4 - Longhua Line

20 km - 15 stations
The subway line is operated by the Hong Kong MTR Corp., Ltd.

28-12-2004: Fumin - Children's Palace (Shaoniangong)
20-06-2007: Fumin - Futian Checkpoint (initially Huanggang - 1 km)
Children's Palace - Qinghu

 Line 5 - Huanzhong Line

40 km - 27 stations

22-06-2011: Qianhaiwan - Huangbeiling


While the existing lines are being extended, line 5 is scheduled to open in spring 2011. For more details see Wikipedia.

See all planned lines here


Shenzhen Metro (Official Website)

Shenzhen Metro at Wikipedia

Map with future lines from Wikipedia

Shenzhen Metro at startinchina.com

Shenzhen Interactive Metro Map


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Craig Moore reports from Shenzhen in October 2015:


Shenzhen has played on both its status as Special Economic Zone (SEZ) within an ever opening and economically dynamic P.R. China, and its strategic location between two of the giant cities of the region, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Using this to its advantage, Shenzhen has become a huge, modern and enterprising city itself with a population of over 10 million. The Shenzhen Metro has naturally piggybacked on this growth and in just 11 years (opened 2004) it has reached 178.4km of revenue track, of which 136.3km is underground (76.4%). The system has 118 stations (93 underground of which 2 have above ground platforms also). This makes the Shenzhen Metro the 16th longest in the world. Even more impressive is the fact that 86% of this network (153.4km) has been brought into service since 2011. This rapid expansion has brought with it elements of inconsistency which is not normally the case in the heavily regulated Chinese urban rail environment. And so the Shenzhen Metro has different line ownership and operation, different branding, power supply, and stock. Despite this, it maintains key elements of uniformity in terms of joint ticketing, free interchange between all lines and a single schematic map. The Shenzhen Metro is also quite unique in that it has interchange with the Hong Kong MTR, which involves transfer though immigration and customs etc.

Shenzhen Metro

Getting there: Whilst Shenzhen is easily accessible by frequent rail services from Guangzhou, the most interesting entrance to the city and its Metro is, in my opinion, from Hong Kong. The system connects with the MRT at Lok Ma Chau (Futian Checkpoint on the Shenzhen side) and Lo Wo (Luohu on the Shenzhen side). From central Hong Kong this involves a journey on the East Rail Line (the former Kowloon Canton Railway) from Hung Hom in central Kowloon. This line is almost entirely above ground and offers views of the mountainous areas of the New Territories, the older, smaller communities and new mega housing complexes in the north of the Hong Kong SAR. Services operate at 4 min headways along the main route with each alternate train branching at Sheung Shui - thus providing 7/8 services per hour to each of the border stations. The short journey on either of these branches from Sheung Shui does attract quite a heavy ticket supplement. Each leg costs $24.50 HKD (€2.65) for the 3min ride whist the 34km journey on the line between Sheung Sui and central Kowloon to costs just $10.50HKD (€1.29). Moreover, like the Airport Line, access to these two border stations is not possible on the MTR Day Ticket.

Crossing: The Lo Wu crossing is the most populous and the traditional point of entry into Shenzhen from Hong Kong. The stations on both sides have one island and two side platforms with passengers alighting from their respective systems through the island platforms. Passengers joining the respective systems here are chaperoned to the side platforms. When trains arrive, the train is emptied before the doors on the side platforms are opened. Lo Wo/Luohu stations is rather slovenly and signage (on the Chinese side) is at best adequate for the task of negotiating immigration and customs. At Lok Ma Chau/Futian Checkpoint, the platform layout is that of simple dead end island platforms with clear signage to immigration processing. In contrast to Lo Wu, this facility is newer, huge, clean and modern, although the scrummage at Fuitan Checkpoint station brings a little chaos to a pretty smooth experience. Just to note that both Hong Kong stations are above ground, whilst both Shenzhen stations are underground.

As most passengers are either Hong Kong residents or PRC citizens the queues for ‘visitors’ is quite short and very speedy. After the first immigration there is a ‘no mans land’ of duty free, bureau de change and tourist information. Also enclosed within the station-immigration structure are the bridges which cross the Sham Chun waterway, dividing Hong Kong and the P.R.C. Both bridges afford views of the Shenzhen skyline, although the Lo Wu crossing, being central, is the most dramatic. Adding to this, below the bridge lies the security fencing along the southern section of the river and the views in the middle distance show the remnants of the border security/watch towers from pre 1997 days when ideological differences between the two areas were more pronounced. After the bridges, the opposing immigration booths await followed by direct access to the relative Metro stations. Naturally there are quiet and busy times but the whole process is very swift and from alighting one system to joining a train on the other system is only 5-10mins. As far as station interchange goes, these must be some of the most interesting there are.

The System: The system has five lines, with 1 and 4 being the original 2004 lines and the ones connecting to the border. Normally I experience Chinese Metros having arrived straight from Europe and so it was interesting to observe the immediate differences between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen metros as these highlight the idiosyncrasies of Chinese systems and, just how incredibly efficient, effective and smart is the Hong Kong MTR. The Shenzhen Metro stations are less stylish and a little more unkempt (but still very clean), there is a marked increase in Metro personnel, the ubiquitous security protocols and scanning machines are evident, maps and information in hard copy is more limited (see below) and there is the usual barrier frenzy. As an aside, Chinese metro systems love barriers, either joining or leaving escalators, in connector tunnels and around entrance halls and ticket barriers. This is a necessary evil on systems such as Beijing and Shanghai and they do keep the huge volumes of passenger traffic flowing well. The volume didn’t seem to be there in Shenzhen, but still the barriers were plentiful. These differences are very clear and this is despite the Shenzhen Metro approach of not following the usual formulaic Chinese station model and adopting Hong Kong styles to the Shenzhen stations, uniforms, and information provision; (as a version of the old adage goes: you can take the system out of China but you can't take China out of the system). The stations have large entrance halls with banks of ticket machines all with touch screen maps for the purpose of ticket purchase. These machines dispense green RFID tokens for occasional users (RFID stored value cards are available for frequent users and the Hong Kong MTR Octopus Card can also be used in Shenzhen). Access to platforms are via escalator and stairs and platforms are smart, ordered and clean with large schematics, line information (line number predominant – line name in parenthesis and smaller font size) and ‘next three trains’ information via television screens located above the full platform screens. Lighting on the underground platforms is quite dim but brightens when trains are due (another HK influence). Interchange signage could be improved - I feel it is not to the usual Chinese quality - and this is important as this system has been planned with interchange in mind. There are 13 interchange stations within the system (excluding the 2 border interchanges) and each line provides connection to all other lines. This slight weakness may be the result of the scale of the interchange stations which are enormous, and also may be because I’m not familiar with the system, its signs, design and layout. Cross platform interchange is possible at a few stations, the one at Laojie (Lines 1/3) being very broad (about 80m between the two platforms). Line 2 is the only line that is fully underground, and this is one of the good things about this system, in that it has some good elevated sections in northern peripheral areas which provide interesting views of the rapid urban development. The elevated stations are all very similar with island platforms and half platform screens. They have large canopied roofs and are substantial structures, often located in the middle of multi-lane roads, thus access is often via long elevated walkways. The trains run very rapidly on these sections as the stations are often 1.5/2.0km apart.

Services operate from 0630-2300 and have base headways of 4-7min, although there are 2-4min frequencies during peak periods. All services operate 6 carriage sets (1435 gauge) but the stock does vary between lines. This is partly due to mixed ownership. Lines 1 (Luabao); 2 (Shekou), and 5 (Huangzhong) are operated by the Shenzhen Metro Company and use a mix of ZEL and CSR stock. Line 4 (Longhua) is owned and operated by MTR and uses CSR stock, whilst Line 3 (Longgang) is operated by ‘Shenzhen Metro Line 3’ and uses CSR stock with Hyundai Rotem traction – this line is the only line on the system with third rail power supply. Train interiors are bright, with side seating and ample standing room. Each carriage has 4 A4 sized schematics located beside half of the doors on each carriage. These are difficult to use given small size and the maps’ style (see below). The above door line maps vary by each line, with interesting variations in presentation, from Hong Kong Style, to mini screens showing individual lines as almost complete circles, illuminating the upcoming station and offering other information about the immediate area. The carriages, like the entire system, are clad in advertising – the most I have seen in China. Audio and electronic information is offered in Mandarin, Cantonese and English (in that order!). Some of the electronic information is only available in traditional Chinese and English, although I did see some platform information in simplified Chinese.

The ride is smooth, quiet and speedy, and station dwell times are suitably. Moreover, the crowding only appears at a few central stations and for the most part it is possible to get a seat or have adequate standing space in the train. The system, with its rapid expansion and good line connectivity offers very good coverage of the entire urban area, with Line 1 reaching the airport, although at some distance from the terminal, especially the new terminal) and all the main rail stations being served well. Given the fragmented ownership (and logos) and stock, it is good to note that there is a semblance of a cohesive brand. Although there is no day ticket, and fares are distance based (ranging from 2 to 8 RMB), there is free interchange between all lines and there is a single schematic map, although I find rather ugly and anorexic looking, with mixed angles and only vague geographic reference. Hard copy information is available at main stations, but is not in plentiful supply. Interestingly, the hard copy map is in a small three-fly folded form and on the reverse there is a schematic of the Hong Kong system map. It's also interesting that the maps on the trains, although similar in style, have a small but significant difference - the two Shenzhen border stations have encroached onto the grey tones of the HKG SAR area and appear to be across the border. This might seem of minimal interest but Beijing plays a canny cartographic game when it has a political point to make.

In conclusion, this is a good system that is easy to use, efficient, inexpensive and has wide coverage – one can only marvel at its recent expansion and future plans. The fragmentation of ownership, stock etc does mean a little cohesiveness is lost but the casual user would not notice this and the effort to offer an overarching brand has been successful – the MTR influence has rubbed off across the entire network. But, for me, the main thing a visit to the very good Shenzhen Metro highlights is just how amazing Hong Kong’s MTR is. Few can compete.


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Shenzhen Subway token


2004 © Robert Schwandl (UrbanRail.Net)