Shanghai Metro weaves a closely monitored network of safety

Chen Huizhi
Amid constant challenges, the world's largest Metro network has been taking a proactive approach to the care of all its users and communities.
Chen Huizhi

Shanghai Metro has safely weathered two typhoons in the past two months, including In-Fa, which was the only typhoon that landing twice in neighboring Zhejiang Province and the strongest ever landed in that province in the past seven decades.

Thanks to its new weather forecast system which enables it to stay alert for extreme weather at each and every station, the Metro operator suspended the operation of several lines partly or entirely during the typhoons, and passengers who were about to take trains from the closed stations were transported by temporary shuttle buses to nearby stations.

"Through the localization of meteorological reports, we're able to forecast the wind speed, precipitation and temperatures for all stations and make precise decisions for operation under extreme weather instead of relying on the naked eye," Geng Kailiang, deputy manager of comprehensive coordination in operation management at Shentong Metro Group, the city's Metro operator, told Shanghai Daily in an interview.

With 19 lines and 460 stations on over 770 kilometers of rails, Shanghai has the world's largest Metro network. Over the course of 28 years, the number of passengers using the city's Metro system has grown from 1 million to 3.8 billion, turning it into the city's major public transportation system, according to the Metro operator.

Challenges to ensure the safety of passengers in the Metro system are constantly rising with expansion of the network, and the operator believes it has taken proactive action to meet them.

Apart from extreme weather, other major threats to Metro safety include big crowds, public security emergencies and technical errors, Geng said.

"Since the Metro network is woven into local communities, we realized early on that its safety depends on good coordination with residential stakeholders," he said.

For many years, the Metro stations have run on a board-of-directors mechanism that brings together the director of the station, the Metro police officer serving the station, head of the grassroots government and the director of the police station that covers the station.

For each station, the directors have worked out contingency plans for dealing with emergency situations, primarily an overload of passengers due to delays. In such cases, officials, officers and community volunteers will work alongside Metro staff to maintain order at the station and prevent undesirable incidents.

"Apart from the station itself, the directors are also increasingly working together to tackle needs that arise around the station, such as parking of bikes and e-bikes," Geng said.

In Shanghai, a city with a large number of workers from out of town, the Metro system is often burdened during Spring Festival holiday and in other high travel periods such as the National Day holiday in October, especially the stations at its major traffic hubs and famous tourist sites.

Handling the crowds takes close coordination with other authorities, said Li Yufen, deputy manager of the technical business department of Shanghai Metro network's control, coordination and command center, known as the 3C center.

"At Hongqiao transportation hub, we keep track of the number of arrivals during the last days of the Spring Festival and make passenger transportation plans four to six hours ahead of the arrivals," she said. "Near the Bund, we stay informed of the number of tourists at the site to make decisions for crowd control at certain stations in the area."

Shanghai Metro holds regular drills on natural disaster, fire and terrorist attacks and closely follows Metro accidents in other cities and countries to draw lessons. Its contingency plans for fire in the train were revised after a serious arson case in the Metro of Taegu, South Korea, in 2003.

"Now we require that trains that caught fire while running in the tube should proceed to the nearest platform, if possible, to better enable escape, and that in such cases no train should be allowed to use the parallel rail to prevent the fire from spreading to other trains," Geng said.

Recently, Shanghai Metro created an app to help its drivers deal with troubleshooting more efficiently. Although a few lines are self-driving and remotely controlled, most lines have drivers. To the drivers, the challenge is that the types of trains running in the system are more and more diversified.

"It's common that seven or eight types of trains run on the same line, and that the driver who gets off a train at a station to have a rest could later get on a train of a different type," Geng said. "Different trains have different technical standards, such as those related to the doors."

The new app is a digital manual that gives the drivers detailed instructions in all technical matters during the operation of trains.

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