China Builds World’s Largest High-Speed Train Network
China’s high-speed rail network has become the busiest in the world. Daily, over 1.3 million people use the fast trains, which connect the major cities. Many businesspeople claim that travelling within China by train is faster and more comfortable than flying.
The newest section of China’s train network opened between Beijing and Wuhan in central China last December. It completes a high-speed train link between the Chinese capital and Guangzhou, near Hong Kong. The Beijing – Guangzhou line, which leads through China’s most populous regions, normally takes 22 hours, now it can be done in eight. 150 trains are scheduled to travel on a daily basis stopping 35 times on their trip south.
High speed trains in China are very modern and comfortable, with WiFi and mobile phone reception throughout the journey. Every passenger has access to electricity and the fares are lower than an average airline ticket. In addition, trains always run on schedule, whereas there are major delays at China’s big airports.
Since the middle of the last decade China has been buying railway technology from abroad. The government runs all the major lines and has turned almost 10,000 km of rail into high-speed lines. Starting out in 2007 it has constructed more railway miles than other countries in four decades. Passengers who have tried out European and Japanese bullet trains insist that Chinese trains are smoother and faster.
China's high-speed trains
The rapid construction of the high-speed train network has led to criticism as well. Transportation experts say that some of the trains are not safe enough and are travelling too fast. Originally planned at running 380 kilometers an hour, the speeds have been reduced. In 2011 a high-speed train accident killed 40 people and raised questions whether China’s transportation projects are moving too fast. In the most expensive infrastructure project in the country, the Chinese government is spending about 300 billion dollars on a high-speed network that will amount to 25,000 km by 2020.
Chinese airline operators have already reacted to the surge in railway traffic. After suffering a major loss, they have cut the number of short destinations and are offering more long-haul flights. This way they can increase their market abroad, while trains take over national passenger transportation.
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