The Nanfang / Blog

With the outrage over the boy squatting on the GZ metro, are attitudes changing?

Posted: 11/20/2012 7:00 am

I’ll never forget taking the train between Tianjin and Beijing, back in 2007, a year before the fancy high-speed rail linking the two cities was launched.  I was late to buying a ticket, so was stuck with standing-room only.  The train was absolutely packed: the seats were filled with people in thick down coats, the windows were steamed up, luggage was hanging from the overhead bins, bags cluttered the aisles and exits, and people were draped around the luggage and squeezed into whatever spots they could find.  That’s when I realized I was standing in a warm puddle of liquid sloshing around, soaking my shoes and the luggage that was sitting on the floor.

Yes, a kid had decided to urinate on the floor, either on his/her own or at the behest of his/her parents.  The thing is, I noticed it and picked up my backpack (I didn’t want it soaked in pee), but nobody else really seemed to pay much mind.  During my early days in Beijing, I saw other kids pee on the Beijing metro; it wasn’t a regular occurrence, but I saw it a handful of times over my three years in the city. Fast forward five years later to November 10, 2012, and the outrage over a boy spotted squatting on a metro train in Guangzhou. There are five years between these two incidents, which is an eternity in China time, but have attitudes really changed that much? It seems so.

The image of a boy defecating on the Guangzhou public metro has outraged the people of Guangzhou, with several vile comments circulating on Sina Weibo.  Indeed, it appears people in China – at least in the bigger, more developed locales – are becoming less tolerant of certain kinds of behaviour.  In this case, though, anger also appears to be directed at the operator of Guangzhou’s metro network.

It turns out that of Guangzhou’s more than 100 metro stations, only 16 come fully equipped with toilets.  The lack of proper restrooms has long been a complaint among Guangzhou’s commuters, and the image of the boy squatting on a moving train is serving as a catalyst to once again call for more facilities. Here’s the China Daily‘s take:

An official from Guangzhou Metro who did not want to be identified said the company has been urged to have the plans for new stations include toilets to help ease the shortage.

“Many deputies of the city people’s congress, members of local committees of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and residents have suggested we install mobile toilets near metro stations to deal with the problem, and we are discussing such a plan,” he added.

Meanwhile, the corporation is trying to guide passengers to use the public restrooms near metro stations, he said.

Han Zhipeng, a member of the CPPCC Guangzhou committee, wrote on his micro blog that the subway station should give commuters access to staff toilets upon request.

Here’s the thing, though: Hong Kong’s MTR doesn’t come equipped with toilets at its stations either, yet you don’t see people taking a dump on moving trains there.  (The KCR’s East Rail Line and West Rail Line had toilets prior to merging with the MTR, so those toilets remain; however there are no toilets at urban line stations on the MTR’s network).

Indeed, there should be toilet facilities at stations, although this correspondent is aware that retrofitting stations with toilets is not an easy task.  There are usually space constraints and problems connecting with existing sewer systems.  As a secondary option, there should be clear signs to nearby toilets (in shopping malls, restaurants, or public toilets near exits) or staff should make passengers aware they can use staff toilets upon request.

So while the Guangzhou metro needs to do more, this won’t be the last time a boy urinates or defecates on a moving train in China no matter how many public toilets are nearby.  This is a societal issue more than a toilet issue.  But with the proliferation of smartphones and emergence of Sina Weibo, it’s much harder for these kinds of acts to go unnoticed… or unpublished.



Shenzhen Travel Card to merge with Hong Kong’s Octopus Card Sept. 4

Posted: 08/31/2012 7:00 am

The Shenzhen Travel Card and Hong Kong’s Octopus Card will become interchangeable on September 4, making life more convenient for people who regularly travel in both cities, local media have announced.

A Shenzhen woman who regularly goes shopping in Hong Kong, Miss Liu, told local television that the new measure will save her time and money. Other residents echoed her statement.

Wang Dongjun, the CEO of Shenzhen Travel Company added that wherever you used the card it would pay in Hong Kong Dollars or RMB, depending on where you are. The cards can be used to take, buses, taxies, the subway and make small purchases in selected stores such as 7-11.

Residents can also add money in either Hong Kong Dollars or RMB, depending on which city they are in.

This will, however, require the purchase of a new card.  Existing Shenzhen Tong and Octopus cards don’t have the dual-currency capability, so you’ll have to pony up for an upgrade.


One smartcard to rule them all: Guangdong, HK team up to offer unified travel card

Posted: 07/3/2012 9:00 am

The days of filling your wallet unnecessarily with smartcards is about to end. Frequent public transport users around the Pearl River Delta will know how frustrating it is to carry multiple cards for our various well-connected public transport systems.

That is all about to change.

Starting July 18, Guangdong and Hong Kong are launching a new joint-smartcard eliminating the need for as many as four cards, uniting and simplifying the means of travel across the Delta.

The Nanfang
 told you last year how transport officials were set on a path to integrate Guangzhou’s Yang Cheng Tong card with Hong Kong’s Octopus and the Macau Pass card, and now it’s finally happening.

The new smartcard has been developed to hold separate RMB and HKD accounts for each area, so users can’t start using their HKD for mainland travel nor the other way around.  It will initially be available for use in Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Users will be able to swipe for buses, taxis, ferries and metro services, and of course be able to purchase all manner of sundries in Hong Kong using the card.

The new card will cost RMB 80 or HKD 98 but users will still have to top up their card as it will come with no initial credit. No word, yet, on whether holders of individual smartcards will be able to transfer their balance over to the new card.

Life of Guangzhou has an interesting comment from a provincial official who provides more detail on the joint-card scheme:

According to Liu Xiaohua, deputy director of Guangdong Communications Department, as the LNT card will be accessible in cities like Shenzhen and Dongguan at the end of the year, the new card can be used throughout the province and Hong Kong, and even in Macau in 2013.

For those eager to get their hands on the new card sooner, a run of 3,000 limited edition cards will be available from July 2 for RMB 238 or HKD 298.

The new Guangdong-Hong Kong smartcard (c) Life of Guangzhou


Today’s head-scratcher: CNN names Guangzhou’s metro the best… in the world

Posted: 05/4/2012 6:15 pm

Is this the world's best?

We love CNNGo here at The Nanfang.  Since they launched a couple of years ago, they’ve been a great wealth of information on the markets they cover (such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.)  We are even fans, despite the fact the founder of our friendly competitors works full-time for them.

But today’s article left us scratching our heads.  The CNNGo team decided to put together a list of the top 10 metro systems in the world, and while we haven’t been able to try all of them, we question its ranking of the number one metro: Guangzhou.

Make no mistake, Guangzhou has a convenient and relatively clean system.  It connects to most of the necessary city hot spots, like shopping malls and train stations.  But best… in the world?  We’re not even sure Guangzhou’s is the best in the PRD, with Hong Kong’s famed MTR right next door.  In fact, the MTR Corporation was a consultant on the Guangzhou metro project when it was under construction.  While the MTR is generally considered to be among the top in the world, it didn’t place anywhere on CNN’s list.

Here’s what CNN had to say about the Guangzhou Metro:

After failing five times in 30 years to create a metro system, Guangzhou’s first metro line was finally opened in 1997 and a second line was opened in 2002.

Infrastructure investment exploded in 2004 when the city won the 2010 Asian Games. In the ensuing six years, the council spent RMB 70 billion (US$11 billion) on the metro system.

For going from absolute-zero in 1992 to eight lines, 144 stations, 236 kilometers of track and 1.2 billion passengers in 2008, and for the upcoming 48-minute express-trip to Hong Kong (opening in 2015), Guangzhou gets top billing on this list.

Those are impressive numbers, no doubt.  We don’t necessarily quibble with the accolades given to the Guangzhou metro, just that it’s the best on the entire planet.

For what it’s worth, Tokyo and New York City round out the top three, while Singapore comes in at number nine.


Debate breaks out on refurbishment of Guangzhou’s metro

Posted: 05/12/2011 2:15 pm

To anybody that’s been on Hong Kong’s fabled MTR network, you’ll know that Guangzhou’s metro was patterned to provide the same comfortable and convenient service. Hong Kong’s MTR was actually a consultant to Guangzhou’s metro company when it was being planned, and like Hong Kong, Guangzhou decided to introduce a different colour scheme for each station along Metro Line 1. Unlike Hong Kong, Guangzhou’s metro is now crumbling, even though it’s only been around for 14 years. This level of attention to detail during planning and construction might make one reconsider purchasing property in China.

Anywho, Guangzhou now says this different-colour-for-different-stations plan doesn’t work. Tiles are crumbling off columns, for example. So it wants to make all stations uniformly coloured to make maintenance and repairs easier. The problem is, Guangzhou’s population isn’t exactly passive to change. So they’ve come out to say: “No”.

The media and populace have questioned the cost of changing all the stations into one style. Media research tried to find decoration materials in the wholesale market and found it easy to fit the damaged walls. The metro company said the materials are similar but must be cut into the right shape. They consider the maintenance cost to be higher than the reconstruction in the long term.

Many people suggested that the metro invest money on improved services, such as installing toilets and elevators. In response the metro company said they only had about 96 million Yuan available for decorating line 1 and the duration of the operation is too short to renew utilities. The input will be an overall change of line 1. Some stations have nearly finished their reconstruction.

What’s nice to see is the aforementioned “populace” speaking up a bit in how their tax yuan are spent. But unless they feel so passionately as to protest this otherwise innocuous reconstruction project, all metro stations will look the same in about three years. If there’s one thing Chinese government officials love, its conformity.



Shenzhen on verge of massive metro expansion

Posted: 03/23/2011 9:38 am

The metro system in Shenzhen is about to expand rapidly, just in time for the Universiade in August.

Shenzhen Metro Line 4, which was taken over by Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation, already runs from the Futian Checkpoint border crossing (Lok Ma Chau on the Hong Kong side) to Children’s Palace Station. But the Shenzhen Standard is reporting that an extension of the line will see trains continue from Chidlren’s Palace Station all the way to Qinghu Station, with testing already underway.

Meanwhile, getting into town from far-flung Bao’an Airport is going to be a whole lot easier once the Line 1 Extension begins operation in June. People will be able to reach the airport (or make their way back into town) on the line once it commences services. Testing on this line will also begin in March.

These two major extensions are in addition to the Shekou Line extension, which opened not long ago (thus eliminating the excuse that Shekou is too far to go for laowai in Futian), and are part of 113 kilometres of new metro lines comprising 80 stations in Shenzhen, all of which will be open by the end of June. To put that in perspective, Hong Kong has 84 stations in total, constructed since 1979. Yeah, things move quickly in China’s “city of dreams“.

From Wikipedia, here is the complete map of what the Shenzhen Metro system will look like come June this year. And if you really want to blow your mind, take a look what’s in store for 2020, which is right below it.

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