A city underground: Staff who keep the Metro running

A team of people are working behind the trains — and rails — to ensure the smooth run of the seven Metro lines that have extended their operating hours.

Lines 1, 2, 7, 8, 9 and 10 now have trains running for extra 70 to 80 minutes on Fridays, Saturdays and the nights before national holidays. Lines 10 and 16 have extended their operating hours by 25 and 30 minutes from Sunday to Thursday.

At 2am on Friday, staff at Meilong Base on Line 1 are hard at work. Three groups — train maintenance, signal information maintenance and cleaners — are at their homestretch. Every day there are between 20 and 25 trains that return to the base after operation. These group of people have the trains checked and ready for another day of runs before 3:30am.

“Otherwise it would affect the operation in the morning,” says Zhao Yingyan, 35, a signal maintenance worker. He has been on the job for about 16 years.

“Previously, we used to finish by about 2:30am, which means we had some time before the deadline,” he says. “Now we have to push our efficiency to catch up.”

Zhao says the tight schedule did not mean a cut in inspections, but is achieved by an optimized work flow. “Safe operation is paramount.”

The working hours of Metro staff and police and security guards at the stations have also been stretched.

“The staff work for an extra hour and are home an hour later,” says Xiong Xiong, deputy station master at People’s Square Station of Lines 1, 2 and 8. “Some of them miss the last bus home, and are forced to make a detour to go home.”