Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Guangzhou Transport Transformation

You may not be able to access google, Facebook or Twitter in Guangzhou, China but their 12,000 buses, 10 metro lines, and 830,000 shared bikes will keep you busy.

I spent four days in China’s 3rd largest city hosted by its transport authority. I visited Guangzhou 25 years ago and it’s unrecognisable today.

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Apart from the buildings, they have transformed their transport scene. Those 10 metro lines didn’t exist 21 years ago. It’s taken Paris 100 ¬†years to build a system half the size. Our visit to the transport central control room of the 14 million person city showed the ¬†size and scope of what they have done.

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But it’s not just the technlogy that impresses. Their English language instructions in the metro system are better than several cities in Europe. (This is just as well as few people in Guangzhou seem to speak English!).

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They lead much of the so called developed world in bike sharing to, with 830,000 privately owned shared bikes swamping the 5,000 state provided ones.

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Growth of course creates different challenges that the city is grappling with, but their highly centrally planned economy clearly has some advantages in terms of making quick progress in certain areas. Although interestingly, it’s the private sector which has helped with quite a lot of this.

Even in a radically different operating environment, there were things to learn in Guangzhou which can be replicated elsewhere.


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