Cableway demolition pits nostalgia against efficiency
The dismantling of China’s first cross-river cableway has provoked debate on modern urban planning and the preservation of city symbols.
Dismantling of the Jialing River Cableway in Chongqing began on Dec 23, nearly three years after it was last used in early 2011.
“The cableway will be replaced by a new cross-river bridge, which will be more efficient,” said Yang Bin, deputy general engineer of the Chongqing Architectural Design Institute.
The 740-meter-long Jialing River Cableway, which started operation in 1982, functioned as a main transportation means for residents traveling between Yuzhong district and Jiangbei district, especially before 1999, when a cross-river bridge connecting the two was opened.
The cableway carried more than 100 million passengers over 29 years, with a peak daily passenger flow of 25,400, according to the company that operated the service.
Many people do not want to say goodbye to the cableway.
Huang Mu, a 29- year- old Chongqing native, left her hometown 10 years ago and now works in Shenzhen.
“Without all the familiar sights, where do my friends and I mark our wild youth?” she said. “My hometown has become vague to me. I am almost a stranger to the city.”
The cableway, which appeared in many movies as a symbol of Chongqing, is a popular tourist site.
The service gave its last rides on Feb 28, 2011. About 12,000 locals lined up to cross the river, according to the cableway company.
The cableway was named as a citylevel cultural relic in 2011, according to the city’s cultural relics bureau.
During 2012, in meetings of the Chongqing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the Chonqing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Chongqing, members suggested that the Jialing River Cableway should be restarted as a tourist attraction.
However, pragmatism beat romance.
The Sichuan Mining Group is in charge of dismantling the cableway. A manager named Wu said the demolition will be finished after the Chinese New Year.
“We will carefully remove the parts of the cableway. Important parts, including ropes and the carriage, will be sent to a museum for protection,” Wu said, adding that the north terminal will also be preserved, but the south terminal will be taken down.
Li Shenghu, a researcher from the Shapingba cultural relics bureau in Chongqing, said preserving parts of the cableway is a good idea.
“The cableway is not a historical relic by the standard definition. It is not unique and it only has a 31-year history,” Li said.
However, Yang Bin, the engineer, believed it would have been possible to keep the cableway operating if planned early.
The Jialing River Cableway, a symbol of Chongqing, was last used in early 2011. Part of the cableway, currently being dismantled, will be preserved in a museum.