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Results Briefs April 8, 2019

Toward Cleaner, Greener Urban Transport in China: Supporting Compact and Transit-Oriented Urban Development in Kunming


Inside a metro station of Line 3

As the first metro project financed by the World Bank in China, the Kunming Urban Rail Project supported green urban transport and compact and transit-oriented urban development by providing high-quality, integrated public transport with bus and rail operating as a single system. Metro Line 3 constructed under the project has significantly reduced travel time, provided reliable services, and achieved ridership of 160,000 passengers per weekday with a user satisfaction rate of over 90%.


With rapid urbanization and rising incomes, traffic congestion became a growing concern for China’s main cities in the 2000s. Kunming is the capital city of Yunnan, one of the poorest provinces in southwestern China. Kunming had kept expanding and growing. In 2010, the city had a population of 5.7 million, one million vehicles and 3,000 buses. Although it was one of the first cities in China to implement a network of bus-priority corridors, the city had been facing challenges related to rapidly growing motor vehicle traffic.



Urban rail has the potential to deliver significant social, economic and environmental benefits, including lower levels of congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increased mobility and accessibility for the low-income population, and increased use of complementary means of non-motorized transport. Therefore, urban rail development was prioritized in urban transport development of Chinese cities in 2005-2015.  Kunming was chosen for a pilot urban rail project in China to receive support from the World Bank. 

The Bank was engaged in a dialogue with the government and second- to third-tier cities on the need to focus on multimodal integration to facilitate transit and support the development of compact city growth. This project was the first in China to tackle such issues, along with the investments in the construction of high-quality urban rail infrastructure. As several features were new, including fare integration, the use of indicators to measure integration and compact city growth, and the focus on the land around the stations, the Bank was able to add value by providing technical support not only as part of preparation and supervision missions, but also by facilitating knowledge exchanges between Kunming, Zhengzhou and Nanchang urban rail projects, all of which were supported by the Bank

Though it was the first Bank-financed metro project in China, it was benchmarked against numerous projects in the region and globally. The project design benefitted from the Bank’s guidance on engineering, policy and institutional aspects, urban planning, and the development of innovative tools and methodology to forecast urban rail demand, as well as the introduction of a public consultation and community engagement approach. The capacity-building activities helped strengthen the management of urban rail investments and the quality of service, while improving knowledge on Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and land value use.

160,000 passengers

per weekday with a user satisfaction rate of over 90%.


Shared bikes near Liangjiahe Station, Line 3



Implemented in 2011-2018, the project financed the construction of East-West Line 3 corridor in Kunming and contributed to the following results:

  • Construction of a high-quality metro system including 17 stations and 19.2 km of track work, with station, track, signaling and communication systems designed to current international standards. 
  • Provision of high-quality transit service, which has significantly reduced travel time between stations. For example, travel time from Shizui station to Xiaoximen along Line 3 was reduced from 43 minutes in 2010 to 14 minutes in 2018; travel time from Eastern Long-Distance Bus Terminal to Nanping Walking Street along Line 3 was reduced from 38 minutes in 2010 to 15 minutes in 2018. Line 3’s punctuality performance is nearly 100%, and user satisfaction is over 90%.
  • Development of an integrated multimodal transport system through the provision of physical interchanges between various modes, a unified fare payment system for both bus and metro systems, and restructured bus routes that complement the Line 3 services.
  • Construction of 13 metro stations with bus/bicycle facilities within 50 meters of an exit. Notably, a multi-modal interchange was built at the Eastern Passenger Station, which provides seamless transfer with Line 6 that goes to the airport and the Eastern Bus Terminal where multiple intercity coach services interchange with local bus services. Bike parking facilities were built around stations.
  • Strengthened collaboration between the Transport Bureau, Kunming Bus Company (KBC) and Kunming Rail Transit Company (KRTC), with a working mechanism created among the relevant agencies to discuss integration issues. 
  • Support to compact urban development through technical assistance studies and capacity building activities including training, workshops and study tours. KRTC and its property development subsidiary conducted TOD studies and land value analyses regularly along the Line 3 alignment and engaged in policy dialogue with the municipal planning and land authorities through the project platform. TOD designs were also prepared for key nodes along Line 3 with support from the World Resources Institute (WRI).
  • The floor-area-ratio, an indicator to measure compact development, 1.6 time higher along Line 3 than the rest of the district, which indicates that the city has encouraged more and higher density developments along Line 3.


Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank provided a loan of US$300 million to finance stations and track, power supply system, safety systems, passenger information system and fare collection system, and technical assistance in TOD and development of a multimodal transport system that integrates rail, bus and cycling. The Bank provided holistic support on engineering designs, procurement, environmental, social and financial management.



Non-Bank financing for the project amounted to US$1.527 billion, including US$248 million of equity contribution from the municipal government and US$1.279 billion loans from commercial banks. The Bank leveraged the partnership with World Resources Institute to provide technical support to KRTC on TOD urban design.


Moving Forward

The project was followed by urban rail projects supported by the World Bank in Chinese cities of Nanchang and Zhengzhou which drew lessons from the project and further pursued the integration and TOD. The Bank is also working with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural Development of China to implement the China Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot Project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to review national laws and regulations on urban planning and land administration that are related to TOD and land value capture (LVC). The public consultation and community participation approach has been replicated in other metro projects financed by the city, with positive feedback from the residents.



“The World Bank-financed Kunming Urban Rail Project not only promoted multi-modal transport integration and sustainable urban development in Kunming, but also brought good project management practices to our company. With help from the Bank experts, our staff gained valuable knowledge in metro planning and TOD design, and will apply these concepts to future projects.”

Min Tao, Director of the Kunming Urban Rail Project Management Office.