China has set a new world record with the world’s longest high speed train which opened on Boxing Day between the northern capital, Beijing, and the southern commercial hub, Guangzhou (formerly Canton). Every day 155 pairs of trains will make the 1,430 mile long journey linking five major economic zones, 35 cities and 30% of the population, and the line will eventually reach to Hong Kong by 2015. The journey takes around 8 hours instead of 21 on the old line, with an average speed of 186 mph, and at a price of 865RMB for a standard class ticket which on the old trains cost 251RMB but which is still slightly cheaper than a flight, and 2727RMB for business class.
Whilst there are concerns about the burdensome cost of the project, corruption in the awarding of construction contracts and whether safety measures were compromised in the haste to complete the work, the economic and commercial benefits to the country will be massive. Rail freight will increase fivefold to 88 million tons a year and thereby lessen the burden on the roads and the environment, and industries in central China will have better access to new markets, and a more competitive workforce. In addition the line will offer greater convenience to the millions of migrant workers in Guangzhou alone who undertake long journeys every new year at the Spring Festival back to their ancestral villages to be with their families, and who will benefit from the huge increase in capacity. During the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year, the whole country often seems to be travelling and on this route 32 million journeys are expected to be made next year.
In less than 10 years China has built nearly 6,000 miles of high speed rail track and has plans to double that figure by 2020 with four east-west and four north-south lines, with the opportunity to extend further into Central Asia and Russia.
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