Women-only subway carriages during rush hour are being suggested as a way to keep Beijing's female passengers free from overcrowding and harassment.
"Beijing's subway is so crowded during rush hour and women are at a disadvantage in both strength and stature to fight for the limited space," said Wang Zhuo, a member of the Beijing municipal committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body.
In the capital, lines 1 and 2 are thought of as being especially crowded, he said, and at stations such as Jianguomen and Fuxingmen, subway staff regularly have to help passengers squeeze into carriages before train doors can close.
In a survey on some 200 female passengers at Fuxingmen station last November, 50 percent said they had difficulties getting on to carriages and 30 percent said difficulties were so extreme they could hardly squeeze in during rush hour, said Wang.
"We can trial women-only carriages on subway lines 1 and 2 between 7:30 and
8:30 am and from 5:30 to 6:30 pm," Wang told China Daily yesterday.
The middle carriage could be set aside for women, with its exterior painted with eye-catching signs and the interior posted with a detailed explanation and warnings about sexual harassment, Wang said.
Staff should also be deployed to advise women about the issues, he said. And he called for surveillance cameras to be installed to deter harassment and said children traveling alone and senior citizens should also be allowed to use the special carriages.
Japan launched women-only carriages in 2001 in Tokyo and Osaka. India, Russia and some other countries have taken similar steps.
Xia Lixin, a publicity official with the CPPCC Beijing municipal committee, said Wang's proposal would be put online at www.beijing.gov.cn, www.bjzx.gov.cn/zhu.htm and other official websites to solicit public opinion on the idea and 17 other proposals raised by committee members.
Chen Yu, a regular subway user, questioned whether the idea would work. "The fundamental reason for the overcrowding is the huge population wanting to use the subway. If all women swarm to that carriage, it will be hard to get on that one as well," Chen said.
Jia Peng, a spokesman for the Beijing Subway Operation Co, said: "Beijing Subway has not been prepared for such services."