If you’re travelling by train from Beijing to Guangzhou, the journey will now take eight hours instead of twenty. God bless us, everyone!
Yes, Al Jazeera has reported that China just launched a 2,000+ km rail line connecting the capital to Guangzhou, a major economic hub:
“The rail line includes 35 stops in major cities such as Zhenghzhou, Wuhan on the Yangze River and Gangsha.
State media have reported that December 26 was chosen as the date to open the Beijing-Guangzhou line to commemorate the birth of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1893.
Railway is an essential part in China’s transportation system, and its government plans to build a grid of high-speed railways with four east-west lines and four north-south lines by 2020.
China’s high-speed rail network was established in 2007, but has fast become the world’s largest with 8,358 kilometres of track at the end of 2010. That is expected to almost double to 16,000km by 2020.”
Unfortunately, according to Al Jazeera, the railway network has been plagued by graft and safety scandals, most notably a deadly bullet train collision in July 2011 that killed 40 people and led to public outrage.
For a marvellous look at the intricacies and flaws of rail advancements in China, check out this piece in Vanity Fair by Simon Winchester. Although it was published in 2011, it’s definitely still worth checking out, especially for the prose:
“Shanghai’s Rainbow Bridge Station is sited next to the city’s old (but newly rebuilt) domestic airport and in a fast-growing nexus of skyscrapers, restaurants, and subway lines (the city had no subway lines until 1995 and now has 11, each one built deeper than the last).
The station is run by a woman, Bao Zhenghong. She is a little under 40, pretty, brisk, friendly, with a blue diamond-shaped badge of authority (over dozens of men, at least) on the sleeve of her no-nonsense uniform blouse. As she paced down the concourse marble she remarked, between shy grins and blushes, that she had started work as a menial at a suburban station 20 years ago, on graduation from technical school. She could not in her wildest dreams, she said, have imagined being so swiftly promoted to take total control of this $2.3 billion glass monument (built in only two years) to China’s newness. Hers is the largest station in Asia, with 60 platforms: it sees 250,000 passengers a day, is made of 80,000 tons of steel, is home to countless stores and restaurants and viewing galleries, and is powered by the biggest solar-panel array in creation.”