Passengers struggle to enter Guomao subway station amidst the Line 1 breakdown yesterday. Photo: Yin Yeping
Beijing subway Line 1 descended into confusion yesterday evening, after a signal failure temporarily disrupted operation of the city's busiest line of transport.
Between 6:40 and 8 pm, passengers were left stranded in the ticketing areas, around stairwells or outside the station at the major subway interchange of Guomao.
"Line 1 was completely out of action for around 80 minutes, nothing was moving, it was all due to a signal failure," one subway driver told the Global Times yesterday, on condition of anonymity.
Beijing Subway company confirmed the details by releasing an official statement shortly after the subway resumed operation.
"Between 6:11 and 7:12 pm, a signal failure on Line 1 between Wukesong station and Wanshoulu forced trains to reduce their speed," the statement reads. It continues to state that under the circumstances, trains would only be able to move if they were at least one station apart.
"Instead of the normal two and a half minutes between the trains, they had to slow down to be at least 5 minutes apart," said Jia Peng, a spokesman for Beijing Subway. He asked the public and the media not to trust rumors about the incident.
The statement was of little comfort to commuters, who found themselves stuck.
"I just came up from Line 10 into this utter chaos, they didn't tell us anything about it or why this has happened," said one commuter surnamed Wang, at Guomao yesterday evening.
Other passengers seemed likewise uninformed about the situation. Some had been spending long periods hovering precariously over the platform edges.
"I've been waiting for over an hour for a train, nobody has told me anything that is going on," said another passenger surnamed Du. "This is our lives, nobody ever tells us what's going on," he added.
The number of passengers inside stations left some elderly travelers feeling shaken.
"I dared not to go further into the station, and found myself trapped in the corner against the wall waiting for the crowds to leave," said 66-year old retiree Shi Chuanlin. "I was frightened of the situation and scared of being trampled to death as a result," he added.
No casualties had been reported as of the time of print.
Dawanglu station had returned to normal by 7:40 pm. Subway staff denied the line had been suspended, but said passenger restrictions had been in place.
"Dawanglu rarely has passenger restrictions this late, and in the past it has been nothing like what we have had today," said a cleaner at the station surnamed Liu.
The head of Dawanglu subway station declined to give details stating, "I don't know what's happening either."
Hundreds of people were waiting along Chang'an Avenue at 7:30 pm after they were driven out of the subway by members of staff.
"The subway from Guomao to Dawanglu was stuck in the tunnel for three minutes at around 8 pm and I don't know what's going on," one passenger surnamed Li, waiting outside, told the Global Times.
A similar breakdown stranded passengers for 30 minutes on Line 1, the oldest of the city's subway systems, on September 18.
Deng Jingyin, Huang Shaojie and Matthew Jukes contributed to this story.