BEIJING Mayor Liu Qi and local Communist Party chief Jia Qinglin were guests of honour at a ceremony on December 11 marking the start of light rail construction in the Chinese capital. Costing 5·8bn yuan, the initial 40·8 km line is due to be completed by the end of next year.

The U-shaped route serving the Zhongguancun high-techology zone in the northwestern suburbs is intended to relieve traffic congestion and stimulate property development. Some funding is to be provided by the Qiong Min Yuan development company owned by Beijing City Council and property developer Zhu Zong (RG 9.99 p556).

Starting from Xizhimen on metro Line 2, the route will run via Qinghe, Beiyuan and Qiwang to Hilongguan, serving 13 stations. There will be 2·8 km underground and 7·7 km elevated, with the remaining 30·3 km at ground level.

In the longer term, the city would like to extend the route from Hilongguan to another interchange with Line 2 at Dongzhimen; this could be completed by 2006. n