Just a decade ago long ago, most rail service in China was well-run, punctual and very, very slow. As the countryside rolled by slowly, it was difficult not to think about how nice it would be if China were to one day have its own version of Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train.
What a difference ten years makes. China not only boasts the world’s largest high-speed rail network, but it is aiming to set a record for the fastest train in the world sometime next year. The announcement was made at the 7th World Congress on High Speed Rail last week, held not coincidentally, in Beijing.
The current fastest train in the world is France’s TGV, which in 2007 was clocked at a record 357.2 miles/hour (574.8 kilometers/hour). China’s CSR Corp announced in Beijing that it is developing a train aiming to top the TGV. There is plenty more ambition where that came from: China is planning on having 42 high-speed rail lines totaling 10,000 miles (13,000 km) in use by 2012.
What does this mean for travelers? Let’s take a look at the upcoming Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line, which is currently being tested. Once operational, it will only take five hours to travel between the two cities in the comfort of a train.
Figuring in traffic, advance check-in and the duration of the Beijing-Shanghai flight itself, the new rail line will only be a little slower than flying, and without any turbulence, delays or airline food. China’s high-speed trains are also newer and more spacious than most of its air fleet, with the added bonus of being able to see the country as it whizzes by.
Right now the recently launched Shanghai-Hangzhou line and the Chengdu-Chongqing line are already an option for WildChina clients. In the coming months and years, high-speed rail will become an increasingly common transport option for anyone looking to experience China differently.
Image: China Daily