China No. 1 in high-speed rails

08:07, July 02, 2010      

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The Shanghai-Nanjing high-speed train is seen at the Hongqiao station in Shanghai Thursday. The 300km/h train slashes travel times between the two cities. (CFP Photo)

A high-speed rail service linking Shanghai and Nanjing - one of China's most developed economic zones - opened to passengers Thursday, making China the world leader in terms of total high-speed rail lines.

The total length of rail lines in the country is currently about 6,920 kilometers.

But while the mammoth project trumpets China's ambitious 2-trillion-yuan ($293 billion) effort to speed up the country's railway system and boost the regional economy, it also raises concerns of whether it will become another white elephant if the service costs too much for travelers.

The trains, which shuttle between Shanghai and Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, at speeds of around 350 kilometers per hour, faster than a Formula 1 racing car, will more than halve the traveling time between the two cities.

The service will cover the 301-kilometer route in just 73 minutes, carving 80 minutes off the previous time. Its 21 stops include the eight most prosperous cities in the Yangtze River Delta region, including Suzhou and Wuxi.

In the line's initial operation phase, 92 pairs of high-speed trains will operate on the route daily. The Ministry of Railways plans to raise the number to 120 to make the service as easily accessible as buses or subways.

The new line "will definitely become the big engine driving the regional modernization of the Yangtze River Delta," said ministry's spokesman Wang Yongping.

Statistics show that the Yangtze River Delta region, covering 2.2 percent of the country's territory, contributed more than 22.1 percent of China's gross domestic product last year.

An existing rail line along the route was established in 1908. It was one of the earliest rail lines in China and has become the busiest one in the world.

It is estimated that the total number of passengers traveling in the region will exceed 3 billion this year and 5.5 billion in 2020.

The new line is also driving up property prices along the route. According to the Nanjing-based Yangtze Evening Post, the prices of the second-hand houses around Suzhou's three stations along the line have surged 8 to 10 percent in recent months.

Source:Global Times
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