Airport Express, Beijing Subway

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Airport Express, Beijing Subway

ABC Airport Express logo.png
Beijing Subway Airport Express 01.jpg
Type Rapid transit
System Beijing Subway
Status Operational
Locale Beijing, China
Termini Terminal 3/ Terminal 2
Stations 4
Daily ridership 31,300 (2014 Avg.)
49,100 (2014 Peak)[1]
Operator(s) Beijing Mass Transit Railway Operation Corp., Ltd
Line length 28.1 kilometres (17.5 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Route map
Terminal 2
Terminal 3
Wenyu River
Beixiao River
Beijing–Baotou Railway
Wangjing South (Reserved)  14  Line 14
Ba River
Sanyuanqiao 10  Line 10
Liangma River
 13  Line 13
Left arrow Xizhimen
 2  Line 2
Beixinqiao (Proposed)  5  Line 5

The Airport Express line of the Beijing Subway (simplified Chinese: 北京机场轨道交通线; traditional Chinese: 北京機場軌道交通線; pinyin: Běijīng Jīchǎng Guǐdào Jiāotōng xiàn), also known by the initials ABC, which stands for Airport Beijing City, is a rapid transit line that connects the Beijing Capital International Airport with Beijing's urban center.[2] The line is 28.1 kilometres (17.5 mi) in length and has only four stations: Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao in the city, and Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 of the Capital Airport.

The line entered into operation on July 19, 2008, in time to serve the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. On subway maps, the Airport Express' color is      magnolia. An extension of the Airport Express line to Beixinqiao on Line 5 is expected to enter operation in 2017.[3]


The Airport Express runs in the following sequence: Dongzhimen → Sanyuanqiao → Terminal 3 → Terminal 2 → Sanyuanqiao → Dongzhimen, running in a counter-clockwise direction. Riders can transfer to Lines 2 and 13 at Dongzhimen and to Line 10 at Sanyuanqiao. There is no train stop at Terminal 1, which is connected by a walkway to Terminal 2.

Most of the 28.1 kilometres (17.5 mi) of tracks are on the surface, except for the 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) section between Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao, several crossings underneath existing railway lines, and the terminal connection within the airport. In the future, this line will extend to Beixinqiao Station.[4] A reserved station, Wangjing South Station is also a part of the future plan.[5][better source needed]

Station Name Connections Nearby Bus Stops* Distance
English Chinese
Beixinqiao 北新桥  5  13 106 107 116 117 612 635 684 夜6 夜10 Dongcheng
Dongzhimen 东直门  2   13  3 18 24 44 75 106 107 117 123 130 131 132 359 401 404 413 416 418 612 635 850 850快 852 855 866 867 915 915快 916 916快 918 935 935快 936 942 942快 966 980 980快 特2 特12 夜6 夜10 夜20 夜32 0.00 0.00
Sanyuanqiao 三元桥  10  18 95 104 131 132 300 300快 302 359 379 401 403 404 419 536 641 671 847 848 850 850快 852 855 866 867 915 915快 916 916快 918 935 935快 936 939 942 980 980快 985 特8 夜18 夜30 运通104 2.92 2.92 Chaoyang
Wangjing South 望京南  14  131 401 403 421 427 593 621 641 696 夜32 运通101 运通111 3.37 6.29
Terminal 3 3号航站楼 Airport interchange PEK 14.92 21.21 Shunyi
Terminal 2 2号航站楼 Airport interchange PEK 7.16 28.37 Chaoyang


One-way fare costs RMB(¥) 25.[6]

Hours of operation[edit]

Each day, the first airport-bound train departs from Dongzhimen at 6:00 and Sanyuanqiao at 6:04, and arrives at Terminal 3 at 6:21 and at Terminal 2 at 6:35, before returning to Sanyuanqiao at 6:52 and to Dongzhimen at 6:56.[7] The last airport-bound train departs from Dongzhimen at 22:30 and from Sanyuanqiao at 22:34, and arrives at Terminal 3 at 22:51 and at Terminal 2 at 23:10, before returning to Sanyuanqiao at 23:27 and Dongzhimen at 23:31.[7]

From Dongzhimen, the trip to Terminal 3 takes 16 minutes and to Terminal 2 takes 35 minutes.[7] From the airport, the trip from Terminal 2 to Dongzhimen takes 21 minutes and from Terminal 3 takes 30 minutes including a 5-minute stop at Terminal 2.[7] Trains depart every 8.5 minutes during peak hours and every 10 minutes during off-peak hours.[8]


The Airport Express was originally conceived as an express rail link from Line 13 at Dongzhimen to the Capital Airport. The Sanyuanqiao Station was subsequently added for the convenience of passengers connecting to the subway network at Line 10.[9][10] Planners considered several types of technology for the Airport Express including high-speed magnetic levitation similar to that of the Shanghai Maglev, low-speed magnetic levitation, standard wheel rail line and linear motor rail system before opting a linear motor system.[9][11] Planning for the line accelerated after the city won the bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and promised to connect the airport and Olympic village by subway.[9] The project cost ¥5.4bn and involved a consortium of companies led by the Beijing Dongzhimen Airport Express Rail Company.[12] The main contracts were signed with the joint venture between Changchun Railway Vehicles (CRV) and Bombardier Transportation. The Airport Express line adopted Bombardier's Innovia Metro Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) technology, which was already in use on the Vancouver Sky Train and New York's AirTrain and capable of driverless operation. At the time the system was only the second automated “driverless” trains in China after another shorter link between sections of Beijing Terminal 3 which was also supplied by Bombardier.[13] Bombardier provided 40 ART MKII new trains, along with electrical systems, bogies and propulsion and brake systems, which were assembled by CRV.

The project operated under a tight delivery schedule with very limited public disclosure.[12][13] During construction, officials from both the Beijing Dongzhimen Airport Express Rail Co. and Bombardier expressed concerns about whether the project would be completed, as originally planned, by the end of 2007, with test operation to start in April 2008.[13] At the time, Zhang Jianwei, chief country representative for Bombardier, called the short timetable for a project of this type unprecedented. Zhang expressed confidence that Bombardier would meet its responsibilities as Chinese contractors routinely worked 24 hours a day, which is not possible in other countries. He also noted, however, that even if the line were to open on time the need for haste could compromise quality of construction.[13]

There was also considerable uncertainty over the progress of the project, the identity of contractors and the operational arrangement of the project. Construction was reported to have begun on June 14, 2005, but aspects of the project still awaited the central government's approval.[14] Local media reported in January 2005 that the train supplier had been “basically decided”, but the selection of Bombardier was not announced until March 2006.[13]

Track-laying began in March 2007 and was completed by November 2007.[15] In April 2008, line testing started using empty trains and official operations started on July 19, 2008 in time for the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games on August 8, 2008.[16][17] The line delivered 2.17 million rides in 2008.[18]

Segment Date opened Length
Dongzhimen — Terminal 3/Terminal 2 19 July 2008 28.5 km (17.71 mi)

Rolling stock[edit]

The line uses Bombardier Innovia Metro rolling stock technology, with a fleet of 40 Mk II vehicles assembled by the Changchun Railway Vehicles (CRV).[19]

The Airport Line trains use a 750 V third rail power supply, and have a maximum speed of 100 kilometers per hour. Trains are configured in fixed sets of four cars with a total of 230 seats. The Airport Line uses Alstom's CBTC (communication-based automatic train control) system, with driverless operations.[20]


The Airport Express line is designed to carry up to 4,500 passengers per hour at peak times and 40,000 passengers a day, with trains running for 15 hours a day with a minimum separation of four minutes between trains.[12][21]

As currently configured, the Airport Express line has insufficient capacity to cope with the rapidly growing numbers of passengers using the airport. Beijing Capital airport ranks second globally for the number of passengers served with 81.6 million passengers in 2012 and by 2015 the airport's passengers are forecast to exceed 90 million.[22] In April 2012 daily ridership on the Airport Express line was reported as 36,800.[1] From these statistics, the Airport Express line is currently serving up to 18 percent of the average daily number of airport passengers but this percentage is likely to decline as ridership on the line during peak hours is already close to the design maximum.[12]

In the short term there is little scope to increase the Airport Express line's capacity. The 4-car train sets used on the line have significantly lower capacity than those on other Beijing subway lines which operate 6-car train sets[23] while the new Line 6 operates 8-car sets[24] Also, the routing of the Airport Express requires trains from Terminal 3 to first travel to Terminal 2 before returning to the city. If trains were able to return directly from Terminal 3 to the city the capacity on the route could be increased. The opening of new subway lines on December 30, 2012, particularly the major extension of Line 10 which has a transfer station with the Airport Express line at Sanyuanqiao, is likely to significantly increase passenger volumes on the Airport Express line.

Other information[edit]

The Dongzhimen city terminus of the Airport Express Line can be accessed directly underground from subway lines 13 and line 2. Due to heavy passenger flows, there is a one-way system operating at the Line 2 Dongzhimen Station and passengers for the Airport Express Line need to take the southeast exit and follow the signs to the Airport Express station on the northeast corner of the Dongzhimen intersection.

Access by cab to the Dongzhimen Railway Express station can be difficult. Unlike in Shanghai and Hong Kong, there is no designated cab rank either on the street adjacent to the station exit or at the Dongzhimen Transport Hub which only serves buses. Taxis may be unwilling to let passengers off at the adjacent bus stop which is the only point of access through the railings to the Airport Express Station. In the evenings motorized tricycles are often the only vehicles willing to take passengers to nearby destinations.[25]

The Airport Express station is three levels underground. There is an escalator to the first underground level which offers access to Line 13 and the Dongzhimen Transport Hub which is a bus transfer station. There is an elevator for ticketed passengers, as well as a staircase, down to the second underground level which also has access to subway Line 2. From the second underground level there is an escalator to the third underground level where Airport Express trains depart for the airport. The platform is relatively narrow for the volume of passenger traffic served. At Terminal 3 the Airport Express station is located in a station 200 metres from the main airport terminal building connected by a covered walkway and travelator. Access from the terminal arrival level is at the same level as the train platform. At the airport, free shuttle buses connect Terminals 1, 2 and 3. Terminals 1 and 2 are also connected by an internal walkway.

The Airport Express is generally faster than the Beijing Airport Bus (¥16) and departs more frequently, typically every 10 minutes compared to 30 minutes for shuttle buses. The Airport Express is also cheaper than taxis which cost around ¥80 to Dongzhimen. Airport terminals have official taxi stands should you still take this route. Also, during peak hours taking heavy luggage by subway lines to and from the Airport Express line is not advised as the trains are very crowded.

Unlike similar rail services such as the MTR Airport Express in Hong Kong, there is no downtown check-in at Dongzhimen or Sanyuanqiao stations.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b (Chinese) Retrieved 2012-04-28 "北京地铁昨天全路网日客运量首破800万高达839.1万人次". Beijing Subway Corporation. 2012-04-28.
  2. ^ (Chinese) 地铁机场线今日开通 最大时速110公里用男乘务员 2008-07-19
  3. ^ (Chinese) "北京地铁机场线西延可换乘5号线 明年年底前通车" 2014-03-31
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Express Railway" Accessed 2014-06-05
  7. ^ a b c d (Chinese) 机场线首末车时刻表 (Schedule of the First and Last Airport Express Trains) Accessed 2014-04-13
  8. ^ 6月10日起机场线最小列车间隔缩短为8分30秒. 北京市地铁运营有限公司. 2012-06-07 [2012-08-25].
  9. ^ a b c (Chinese) "全线运营点对点不建磁悬浮 机场轨道明年动工" 北京青年报 2003-12-14 [2012-08-25.
  10. ^ 北京机场轨道线再掀面纱 地下通道与十号线连接. 2005-03-25 [2012-08-25].
  11. ^ 5.0 5.1 北京市市政工程设计研究总院 北京市勘察设计研究院有限公司本卷主编. 《再塑北京——市政与交通工程》. 北京: 中国建筑工业出版社. 2008: 141-157. ISBN 978-7-112-09885-9.
  12. ^ a b c d "Beijing Olympic Village Rail Link Construction, China" Retrieved [2012-12-29
  13. ^ a b c d e Mure Dickie, "Fears over Beijing Olympic rail link" Financial Times 2006-08-18 Retrieved [2012-12-29]
  14. ^ 首都机场快速轨道首站开建 9月1日全线开工. 2005-06-15 [2012-08-25].
  15. ^ "Track laying completed for Beijing Subway Airport Line" The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
  16. ^ 首都机场轨道线试运行 市区18分钟内可达机场. 2008-04-27 [2012-08-25].
  17. ^ 北京地铁周末“三线齐发” 机场线票价尚未公布. 2008-07-18 [2012-08-25].
  18. ^ (Chinese) "北京地铁2008年运送乘客突破12亿人次" 北京晨报 Jan. 2, 2009
  19. ^ "Bombardier Awarded Contract in China for the Beijing Capital International Airport Link With Connection to Summer 2008 Olympic Games Village" Business Wire Mar. 20, 2006
  20. ^ ^ 北京机场线将建无人驾驶地铁. 2006-08-08 [2012-08-25].
  21. ^ 首都机场轨道线开始铺轨 2008年7月将载客运营. 2007-03-02 [2012-08-25].
  22. ^ "80 million fly through airport", China Daily 2012-12-27.
  23. ^ ^ a b "Linear Motor Commuter for Beijing" CNR website Accessed Mar. 27, 2010
  24. ^ ^ (Chinese) "4条地铁线将装屏蔽门" 法制晚报 Jan. 20, 2010.
  25. ^ Contributor's personal experience [2012-12-29]

External links[edit]