If you imagine a subway station 50 km southwest of Tian’anmen Square, then you’ve imagined it: the westernmost terminus of the new Yanfang Line, stretching from the built-up part of Fangshan in the southwestern suburbs all the way out to Yanshan.
Tracking China went along the route of the new line to see how work progressed. Somehow, the trip missed the westernmost terminus, Yanhua, but did meet the line as it was being built alongside Municipal Highway S317, the Beijing-Zhoukoudian Highway, a major artery in southwestern Beijing. Yes, if you head west on this highway, you will eventually reach Zhoukoudian, home to the original Peking Man!
The stations being built mimic those in appearance as seen on the Fangshan Line. This is no surprise, actually — the Yanfang Line (which is so-called as it connects Yanshan to Fangshan) is built so that eventually, through services can run from the westernmost stations all the way to urban Beijing near the southern 3rd Ring Road (once the northern extension to the Fangshan Line is built).
Much of the elevated tracks are also being built, and these elevated “rail express routes” do go quite far: all the way east to Yancun North, which is where the line meets the Fangshan Line. Ultimately, the whole idea is to not let passengers change trains at all at this station, and for trains to continue further east.
Even if this isn’t possible in the short term, another bit of subway innovation will be possible: the Yanfang Line is expected to be the first line to enable fully driverless operations. (The CBD APM line is expected to run without a driver as well.)
The line crosses the newly-built Beijing-Kunming Expressway (National Expressway G5), in a crossing somewhat reminiscent of Line 15 crossing the Beijing-Pinggu Expressway (Municipal Motorway S32 as it stands now). It’s all very much elevated, and care is indeed taken to ensure it’s one smooth connection from town to countryside.
When all’s done, the line will link to Yanhua, home to a chemistry plant (and indeed, due to this, a place where all forms of explosives and fireworks are completely banned year-round). It will provide an alternative to the national railway line, which has occasional services from Beijing West (Beijingxi) Railway Station to Yanshan — at a national rail station still a few minutes away by car than from the centre of Yanshan / Yanhua.
The line is expected to enter service in late 2017 and progress is coming incredibly quickly. Tracking China is incredibly amazed at how fast this line is coming along.