China's Ministry of Railways on Wednesday vowed to keep the trains running smoothly between Beijing and other Olympic co-host cities despite an expected surgein passenger numbers.
"We are fully prepared for the possible increase in passengers, including tourists," said Zhang Shuguang, the ministry's deputy chief engineer and head of the transportation bureau.
The ministry had added 120 passenger trains on routes linking Beijing and co-host cities Tianjin, Qingdao, Shenyang, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, the nearest mainland terminal to Hong Kong.
The ministry had worked out plans to facilitate travel for athletes and other Olympic staff according to the requirements of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games (BOCOG), he said.
It had also prepared contingency trains to meet the demand in case of emergencies in other transport sectors, such as bad weather disrupting air traffic, he said.
"Generally speaking, there will be no congestion on the railways," he said.
But Zhang admitted that it could be difficult to buy train tickets. "We have to increase capacity. We are still working on it," he said.
New railway stations are scheduled to be put into operation in Beijing and the co-host cities Tianjin and Qingdao on Aug. 1. They are the Beijing South Railway Station, said to be the largest in Asia with an investment of 7 billion yuan (1.01 billion U.S. dollars), Tianjin Railway Station, one of the terminals of Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, China's fastest railway, and the Railway Station in Qingdao where the Olympic sailing events will be held.
The three stations would ready for the Games, said Zheng Jian, another deputy chief engineer of the ministry.
"All construction programs have been finished. Everything is in place Aug. 1," Zheng said.
The new Beijing South Railway Station would have access to subway, bus and taxi services in one building. "The longest distance for passengers to transfer from one vehicle to another will be 200 meters," he said.
A railway line named S2 will begin operation before the Olympics to connect downtown Beijing to the northwest suburbs where the Great Wall and other attractions are located, said Zhang.
"The line will help tourists who want to tour the Great Wall," he said.
New trains will run on the line at up to 16 km per hour, he said.
A one-way journey of the full length of the line would be about57 minutes.
The authorities raised speeds on the trunk lines linking major cities from under 200 km per hour to 200 to 250 km per hour in April last year.
By the end of 2007, China had 78,000 km of railway, the world's third largest rail network.