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Let the train, take the strain (4)

(China Daily)

09:05, October 03, 2012

Zhang Fa, a 27-year-old woman who works in a library in the capital, like Yu, has fears about the level of comfort on board a sleeper, but says she likes the thought of being able to take a bit more time enjoying local attractions.

"Although I think I might get frustrated by the slow speed of the train, and sleepers look quite expensive."

A manager from Honghu Travel, who asked not to be named, says that China's burgeoning sleeper services - despite starting years after those in many other countries - have developed fast, and are now as good, if not better, than many in countries such as the United States, Japan and India.

However, one drawback, he adds, is that some of the best seats have to be booked as much as a year in advance, and even then, availability can be limited by the size of the trains.

Zhang Guangrui, a director at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences's tourism research center, says that not enough travel agencies are aware, yet, of the range of sleeper services available.

"Indian agencies have great experience of booking these kinds of trip, in fact sleeper services are just about a brand in themselves in that country.

"Their sleeper trains focus on long journeys, covering many different historic sites; they are decorated in traditional Indian style, and can create a really genuine cultural experience for travelers there.

"China should offer a lot more of this kind of service.

"The possibilities for more trips are clear, and there are many historic and cultural routes which could be developed in future.

"But they are certainly becoming popular, and people are realizing that traveling by sleeper is more than just catching a train to somewhere - it's a travel experience rather than a simple journey."

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