In a Weibo post on December 10, 2021, Beijing Subway announced that passengers could register for real-name authentication in order to access fast entry lanes when entering Beijing subway stations.
The trial period of the fast entry lanes has already started. The lanes are designed to allow regular commuters to enter subway stations more quickly, particularly during peak hours.
A poster informing commuters of the fast entry lanes in Tiantongyuan South station. Image via Alistair Baker-Brian/That's
Five subway stations are undergoing a trial run, all of which are located in suburban Changping district. These include Tiantongyuan North (Line 5), Tiantongyuan (Line 5), Tiantongyuan South (Line 5), Huoying (Line 13) and Huilongguan Dong Da Jie (Line 8).
No reason has been given as to why these stations were chosen for trial runs. However, if we had to take a guess, we would say that these stations tend to be busy with passengers making long-distance commutes between their suburban homes and their city-center work places, particularly during peak hours. This means that saving a few minutes entering the station may make a difference.
A sign directing commuters who have undergone real-name authentication on the 北京通 app to enter Tiantongyuan South station. Image via Alistair Baker-Brian/That's
So, how do you register for real-name authentication and get access to the fast entry lanes?
Passengers have to register via the 北京通 app. You can select two stations at which you wish to use the fast entry lanes. The most logical choices would be the two stations between which you commute for work on a daily basis.
The only condition you have to meet is that you must enter each station a minimum of ten times per month to be eligible.
That’s enquired with the 北京通 app customer service about whether expats could register for the fast lanes. Unfortunately, only those with permanent residence cards can do so. The app does not accept foreign passports.
What are the supposed advantages of using the lanes?
Beijing Daily reports that the lanes can cut down wait times to enter stations by around two minutes; that might not sound like a lot but could make a difference if you are running late and worried you cannot sign in to work on time.
The facial recognition technology used for the lanes doesn’t require users to remove their facemasks; passengers only need to remove hats.
So, have the lanes been well received so far? Not according to some netizens.
On Weibo, some passengers gave their feedback of entering the subway during the trial period.
User @哎吆啥呀 posted a picture of Tiantongyuan North station and commented “Many people were late today.” The user pointed out that one of the two existing lanes was used as the fast entry lane and that as most people were still using the regular lane, this meant commuters had to queue longer to go through the regular security check.
Another user @宁有什么可豪横的 made a similar point; the user posted a picture of Tiantongyuan station on December 21 at around 8.40am and commented that a security check which would normally take two minutes took 10 minutes during the trial period.
Moreover, Beijing Subway states that those going through the fast lanes with an item over a certain size would still have to go through a regular security check. They also stated that station staff in the fast lane may ‘conduct random security checks’ on passengers.
This perhaps begs the question; if using the fast lane requires lengthy security checks, doesn’t this defeat the whole purpose of the lanes themselves?
Clearly, some are yet to be convinced of the advantages of the fast entry lanes, not least a few Weibo users who have already experienced commuting during the trial period.
Is this the future of Beijing Subway stations? We’ll wait and see, but don't expect to see fast entry lanes in a subway station near you anytime soon.
[Cover image via Alistair Baker-Brian/That's]