The Airport Express line on the Beijing Subway is also known by the initials ABC, which stands for Airport Beijing City.
At the time of writing, the 28.1 km line has only four stations: Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao in the city, and Terminals 2 and 3 at the Capital Airport.
However, the line will be extended to Beixinqiao Station (line 5); and there is also a ‘reserved station’, Wangjing South on Line 14, which is part of a future plan.
The Airport Express was originally conceived as an express rail link from Line 13 at Dongzhimen to the Capital Airport. However, once the city won the bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, planning for the line was accelerated. Track-laying began in March 2007 and was completed by November 2007. Line testing started In April 2008, using empty trains, and official operations started on July 19, 2008 – only just in time for the opening of the Games on 08/08/08.
The decision to run the trains in a push-me-pull-you arrangement, whereby parts of the same tracks are used for both entering and leaving the terminals, will seriously hamper any future plans to upgrade the frequency of the trains. This was very much a short sighted decision which will be regretted in future years, I suspect.
The line uses Bombardier Innovia Metro rolling stock technology, with a fleet of 40 Mk II vehicles assembled by the Changchun Railway Vehicles (CRV) company. With a maximum speed of 100 kph, trains are configured in fixed sets of four cars with a total of 230 seats.
The Airport Express line is designed to carry up to 4,500 passengers per hour at peak times and 40,000 passengers a day. Trains run with a minimum separation time of four minutes between trains, though in the evenings the separation is more like 12 minutes.
It has to be said that the design of the carriages leaves a lot to be desired. Little thought was given as to where to put luggage, and the result is that passengers squeeze their suitcases into every available nook and cranny, much to the discomfort of everyone else!
The following stations on the Airport Express have artwork: