Developing Metro Systems in the People's Republic of China: Policy and Gaps

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - appraisal/evaluation, place - urban, mode - rail, mode - subway/metro


Urban transportation policy, Technology, Rail transit, Policy making, Policy analysis, People's Republic of China, Large cities, Funding, Financing, Evaluation and assessment, China, Affordability


In face of the growing demand for mobility, new metro systems are being developed in large Chinese cities like Guangzhou and Shanghai. There currently are seven cities with metro lines under construction. This paper systematically reviews the policy issues and major challenges of developing metro systems in China and highlights three major gaps that Chinese cities have to overcome in planning metro systems. They are the technology gap, the financing gap and the affordability gap. An analysis of these gaps in the Chinese context indicates that early planning and careful studies are important in the development of metro systems in China. It is also suggested that the existing official criteria (population and economic power) for approving the building of metro systems are insufficient and should be supplemented by more vigorous evaluation criteria to ensure that the metro systems offering the highest social benefits can proceed.