Price of high-speed rail ticket still a mystery

15:21, May 17, 2011      

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That nobody knows the ticket price weeks before the launch of the prestigious Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link is becoming an increasingly sensitive and contentious issue in media.

Both experts and passengers have called for a transparent mechanism in line with the national Price Law that stipulates when setting a price for goods or services that concern the interests of the people, the relevant authority must convene a public hearing.

The railway ministry had failed to implement any such hearing before the 2008 Beijing-Tianjin high-speed rail link, wrote Zhang Guifa, a commentator in Jinan Daily, and called for a hearing before the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail concludes its trial runs at the end of June.

Various guesses at the price of the 1,463-kilometer rail ticket range from 500 yuan ($76.8) to 900 yuan ($138.3).

The price was still undecided, Xie Xiaowen, a staff member of the Ministry of Railways, told the Global Times Monday.

Railways minister Sheng Guangzu told People's Daily on April 13 the train would run at 250 or 300 kilometers per hour, significantly lower than the purported 380 kilometers promised when the railway was designed and built.

Two types of ticket would follow the two different speeds, Sheng said, mentioning "safety considerations" in the pricing.

"The price for high-speed rail reflects not only the nation's transportation development, but also concerns people's livelihoods," Sun Zhang, a professor at Tongji University in Shanghai.

The price of high-speed rail tickets should be lower than airlines to attract more passengers, Sun told the Global Times.

There should be both luxury and cheap seats to ensure the largest number of citizens gained access to high-speed travel, he argued.

"The price of train travel at 300 kilometers per hour should be about 600 yuan, while the 250 kilometers-per-hour train should be cheaper."

The launch of high-speed rail would pile pressure on State airlines, said Zhao Jian, a professor of economics at Beijing Jiaotong University, told the Global Times. "The main idea for the pricing of high-speed rail is to ensure more and more people can enjoy the nation's rapid transport development," he said.

A tourist class air ticket from Beijing to Shanghai costs 1,290 yuan, but tickets with 40 to 50 percent discounts were rapidly increasing.

Source: Global Times
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