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More trains, better controls

Commuters wait at the Xinzhuang Station of Metro Line 1 after the failure of an on-board compressor caused a train to break down during rush hour yesterday morning. The repairs took only nine minutes but still caused a passenger backup.Photograph byLiu Ying

Shanghai's subway riders may get a little more elbow room over the coming months.


The Metro authority is adding more trains and support staff along with a new network operations center as it tries to cope with the boom in commuters. Last Friday, 4.14 million passengers used the system - just short of the record 4.31 million on December 31.


The average number of passengers per day during the first two months of the year surged to 3.5 million, compared with 3 million last year.


And it's not just comfort that suffers. The wet weather over the past few weeks has caused a series of breakdowns, and the huge passenger volume made matters worse.


The latest breakdown occurred during rush hour yesterday morning when a Line 1 train stalled because of a failed on-board compressor near the Xinzhuang Station.


It took repair workers only nine minutes to get the train running again, but the incident proved to be an embarrassment for Metro officials, who were hosting TV and newspaper reporters in their control room to show how they handle rush-hour traffic.


A week before, a breakdown on Line 2 caused a 31-minute delay, stranding tens of thousands of passengers and making many late for work.


"The continuous growth in passenger flow and a system dampened by the lingering rain over the past few weeks have caused the system to be more vulnerable to malfunctions," Shao Weizhong, general manager of the Shanghai Metro operations management center, said yesterday.


Overcrowding has also slowed the system. If a single train door fails to close, which happens frequently during rush hours due to the passenger crush, incoming trains will be automatically delayed.


That explains why more riders are spending longer than usual stopped in a station while the train waits for the line ahead to clear.


To meet the challenges, the Metro authority is dividing its system into four branches and setting up a network operation center to ensure that the trains run smoothly. The new facility should speed up repairs in times of trouble.


Three new repair centers have been added to the existing eight along with another 24 experienced technicians. Four task teams and 131 extra repair and maintenance staff members are on duty in peak hours, some riding the trains.


Since the end of last month, nearly 1,000 technicians have been checking the city's eight lines and 162 stations for problems at night after the Metro is closed to traffic.


By the end of this year, each of the 53 trains on Metro Line 1 will have eight cars instead of six.


Line 2 will also have its 37 trains running with eight cars by June. From next January, Metro Line 6 is expected to have 32 trains, up from the present 21.


The Pudong extension of the 14.25-kilometer Line 8 will open at the beginning of July. Line 7, the second phase of Line 9, and the first phase of Line 11 will begin running this year.


By the opening of 2010 Shanghai World Expo, Line 10, the eastern and western extensions of Line 2 and the northern extensions of Lines 7 and 13 will be in use.


(Shanghai Daily March 10, 2009)