The Beijing Airport Express is almost a year old and was built in time for the 2008 Olympics. Meant to ease congestion to the airport by providing a fast train to the newest terminal, Terminal 3, the concept was good, but the execution was not.
I recently moved to Dongzhimen, which is the terminus for the Airport Express, called ABC or Airport Beijing City.
Today I flew to Xi'an for a business trip and thought it would be convenient to take the ABC. Not.
As I live across the street from the station, I had to drag my suitcase and carry-on through the subway underpass which has no escalator and then back up stairs.
Then I had to go to the ABC entrance, which could have been connected to the subway, but wasn't.
Even worse was that there was only a stairway going down to the train, not even an escalator and again I had to carry my baggage down.
Finally below ground there was another escalator that took you to the security check and then ticket booth where you could buy the 25 RMB ticket at a booth or at machines. And just our luck only one window was open, but two other staff manning the other booths, but just not feeling like serving anyone.
Thankfully one of them decided to ease the line-up and I jumped ahead and got a ticket from him.
Yet another set of escalators down and then there were some benches available for people to wait and watch silly entertainment on the TV screens.
After a 10 minute wait I get onto the train, but there is no extra room made available for suitcases, like the Hong Kong Airport express, nor much legroom either.
We finally get on our way and after 20 minutes make it to Terminal 3. The train then backtracks a bit before heading in another direction to Terminal 2.
I had been told that my flight was at Terminal 2, but I couldn't find it on the screen and it turned out it was in Terminal 1 which was another 10-minute walk away. Luckily baggage carts were available and after a power walk, I was able to get there in less than the estimated time and check-in.
Needless to say, once I sat in the plane, I quickly nodded off, sleeping off some of the stress I'd had to deal with and physically lugging all my stuff around.
The ABC is like so many other infrastructure projects here -- great idea, but not much thought gone into details or long-term planning. By the same token, I find many people here are big on ideas, but not quite sure how they're going to achieve the goal, or the logistics of getting there.
So while many people take the ABC, the Airport Bus is still doing a brisk business. I used to take it all the time as one of the routes was near where I used to live. It took you straight to each of the three terminals and only 16 RMB. The only wild card is the traffic. But if you're not in a hurry, it's pretty much stress-free.