Posted November 2nd 2011 at 10:44 am by
in Bike Lanes of Kunming, Transportation

Bike Lanes of Kunming: An Uncertain Future

Shanghai's skyline picture on Dongfang Square construction site

I began documenting the changes occurring to Kunming’s bike lanes in the context of the city’s rapid urbanization, which includes the construction of the new subway system that began this year. In response to the thoughtful comments and questions posed by the CoLab Radio readers, I began exploring the city’s development plans for its future transit system.

The following is merely a snapshot, but it reveals that the new subway is only but a part of a major reconstruction project that aims to transform Kunming into one of China’s major transportation hubs and trade centers. Constructions is already underway to build Kunming’s new international airport, a high-speed domestic railway station, and a Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) network that will connect Kunming to Singapore.

Kunming subway

Image of subway plans from

Subway: Construction on Kunming’s first subway system began late May this year, and it’s expected to start carrying passengers by June 2012. The developers hope that the speedy implementation of the new subway system will help reduce traffic congestion. However, the public safety concerns are just as pressing, especially after two recent railway accidents: the Shanghai subway crash in September that injured nearly 300 people and the July bullet train collision that killed 40 people and injured hundreds in Wenzhou. Both accidents occurred due to an apparent failure in the train’s signal communication system.

This past Saturday, October 29th, the China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corporation Ltd (CSR) held a press conference to address safety concerns, specifically regarding the Kunming subway’s signal system.

Sources: Sohu, WSJ

High-speed trainDomestic Railway: Kunming currently has two railway stations. The planned high-speed railway will feature 30 rail lines and is expected to have a capacity of 128,000 passengers daily. The Shanghai-Kunming passenger line will reduce travel time between the two cities from the current 37 hours to less than 9 hours. The train’s target speed is 350 km/hr, faster than France’s TGV (320 km/hr) and Japan’s Shinkansen (300 km/hr).

The new railway is part of a nationwide railway upgrade; the government has reserved 500 million yuan (US$73.2 million) for Yunnan Province alone.


Kunming Changshui International AirportNew Airport: All flights to Kunming are currently serviced by Kunming Wujiaba International Airport. Starting January 2012, all operations will be transferred to the new Kunming Changshui International Airport. It is projected to become China’s fourth largest airport. The new airport will be connected to a new highway and the new subway, both currently under construction.

The new airport has already experienced two accidents with uncertain causes. On January 3rd, 2010, an incomplete overpass collapsed, which killed 7 construction workers and injured another 34. On June 28th of this year, 11 workers suffered injuries when an airport tunnel suddenly collapsed.

Sources:, China Daily, Global Times, Xinhua

The Kunming-Singapore Line Trans-Asian Railway Network:

The Kunming-Singapore High-Speed Railway began construction in late April of this year. This line will run south from Kunming through Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and end in Singapore. Once the railway line is complete, it will take about 10 hours to travel between Kunming and Singapore. The eastern section of the Trans-Asia Railway, connecting Kunming to Hanoi, Vietnam, is planned to be completed in 2013.

There are also plans to extend the high-speed rail line between Yunnan Province and Myanmar.

Sources: People’s Daily, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, CNS Wire

One of many government banners on the road

Bike lanes

Not mentioned in these plans is the future of the city’s extensive bike lane network.

How will the dramatic changes in Kunming’s transit system shape the daily lives of its residents?

Unless otherwise noted, post and photos by Sewon Chung.

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