Students say high-speed rails too costly

08:22, December 30, 2010      

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An unexpected consequence of the proliferation of high-speed trains has been that their tickets are too pricey for low-income travelers, especially university students hoping to return home during school holidays.

Nearly half of the 130 daily trains traveling between Shanghai and Jiangsu's provincial capital Nanjing are G trains with a top service speed of 350 kilometers an hour, the China Railway Service Center's official online schedule showed.

The high-speed trains also account for more than half the intercity trains between Shanghai and Hangzhou city in East China's Zhejiang province.

Though these trains are twice as fast as their slower counterparts, their higher ticket costs have incurred the ire of students, who have limited budgets for homecoming trips during school holidays.

A second-class G train ticket for the Shanghai-Nanjing line costs 146 yuan ($22), which is 57 percent more than a D train seat. D trains are also bullet trains but are relatively slower, with a top service speed of 250 km an hour.

A first-class G train seat costs 233 yuan, double its D train equivalent.

"The high-speed train ticket is too expensive for me," Li Rubing, a 22-year-old Shanghai native, who now studies in Nanjing, told China Daily.

Li, who is now in her fourth year at Nanjing University, said the cost of a G train ticket can equal a fifth of her monthly budget. So, she will try to bum a ride home during the upcoming school holiday.

The high-speed trains are increasingly dominating the tracks, leaving low-income travelers to fight over a shrinking pool of affordable tickets.

Li Jingjian, a 24-year-old Tianjin native who studies at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, believed passengers need more options.

He said he can no longer go home on cheap trains after the two cities were linked by a high-speed railway in 2008.

"Ticket office workers have become reluctant to sell other train tickets after the G trains become predominant," Gao Yingxia, a 21-year-old Nanjing University student who traveled monthly between Shanghai and Nanjing, told China Daily.

She now must book a D train 10 days in advance or take other cheap trains shunned by other passengers because they leave very early in the morning.

The government has responded to the students' concerns through preferential policies, such as offering discounts to passengers who buy tickets with student IDs around holiday times.

But the discount for high-speed trains is only 25 percent, while regular trains are about 50 percent of the faster trains' cost.

"If bullet train tickets were sold to students at half price - like tickets for the other trains cost - it would be much fairer for us," Gao said.

Beijing Jiaotong University professor Ji Jialun said bullet train ticket prices are unlikely to fall, considering the extremely high cost of high-speed railways' construction and operation.

"It's a high-quality, high-price issue," he told China Daily.

Train tickets' price disparities offer a means to separate passenger flows and need more time for public acceptance, he said.

Tan Zongyang contributed to this story.

By Bao Daozu, China Daily
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