The Shenzhen Metro is surprisingly easy to use. The ticket machine offers the choice of Chinese, pinyin and English and is touchscreen-driven. Which means selecting a station (optionally filtering by metro-line first, and then picking a station from it), then selecting the number of tickets. At this stage the default option is one adult ticket, but it’s very easy to add multiple adult and childrens tickets. Then deposit the money, and out pops a green plastic coin-shaped token. This is an RFID chip.
The RFID chip, and any change drops into your palm when you insert your hand into the deposit slot. That means you should insert your hand palm facing upwards. Today I got it wrong both ways, and when I pulled my hand back out there was a couple of yuan coins and the green RFID token on the back of my hand.
One catch is that the ticket machines only accept coins and the 5 RMB note. No other notes. I knew that before I arrived in Shenzhen (thanks to “China: How it is“, an awesomely useful set of YouTube videos by serpentza, a South African who has been living in Shenzhen for 6 years. One in particular about Shenzhen’s Public Transport system). I took the option of asking the concierge of the hotel to exchange a 50RMB note for 10 5RMB ones.
You scan the token at the ticket barrier much like an Oyster card, and it opens the gate. At your destination, you insert the token in the coin slot to open the ticket barrier for your exit.
Shenzhen’s ambition is to be a global city, and the Metro is designed expressly for that purpose. Everything is clearly signposted in Chinese and English, On the platform a vertical list of stations colour-coded to make it easy to understand which platform goes which direction. Each platform also has an overhead TV displaying the number of minutes to the next train.
Onboard the train, the announcements are in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. Also, above every door is a map of the line you are on, with red lights indicating the stations already visited, and green lights for those still to be visited, and an orange light for the next stop. And an arror to indicate which door to use when exiting the next station.
The trains, and the station are immaculately clean. There’s no eating or drinking permitted on the train. Travellers are advised not to lean on the doors. And there are feet markers at each station platform to indicate where to stand to wait for a train in a way to allow passengers on the train to get off quickly. That’s something Transport for London should consider.
As a regular London underground user, I found Shenzhen’s Metro a far more pleasant experience. Granted, I wasn’t travelling during an equivalent rush-hour. I don’t mind standing on a train, I just don’t like being crammed in.
My first trip was taking the Metro Luabao line from the Coco Park Shopping centre stop, five stops eastwards to the Great Theatre, and taking the MixC shopping center exit. And the return trip
So, I now have a piece of one plan of getting back to Hong Kong International Airport, using the Metro to get me back to Hong Kong. That puts both Futian Port and a ferry from Shekhou right on the radar as options now.