High-speed rail saves time, but price gives pause

09:09, May 20, 2010      

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Li Jing needs to travel back home from Beijing to Tianjin every weekend to be with her family, but the ticket price for the high-speed railway between the two municipalities is too high for her.

"It is ok if you take it once a year, but too costly for frequent commuters like me and many others," said Li, an employee with a Beijing-based international trade company.

A second-class ticket costs 58 yuan ($8.49) for the 120 kilometer trip, which takes 30 minutes. Ordinary trains between the two cities take around 90 minutes, but only cost about 20 yuan ($2.93).

The high price for tickets on two other newly-built high-speed railways in the country, the Wuhan-Guagnzhou and Zhengzhou-Xi'an lines, has also been criticized.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which set the ticket prices with the Ministry of Railway, has no intention of low-ering the prices or holding a hearing about the issue in the near future, according to a statement the NDRC sent Tuesday to attorney Dong Zhengwei. Dong and three other lawyers from the Beijing-based Zhongyin Law Firm earlier submitted a complaints report about the prices.

The average price of traveling by China's high-speed railway is about 0.48 yuan ($0.07) per kilometer, but according to Dong's calculation, the passenger lines can profit even at half that price.

"The high ticket price is discouraging potential passengers," Dong said. "The capacity of the high-speed railways is not fully taken advantage of because of the high price."

"High-speed rails are actually making losses right now," said Sun Zhang, a professor with the Urban Rail & Railway Engineering Department of Shanghai-based Tongji University. "The high ticket price is surely a reason for the loss. At present, most Chinese people want to save money rather than save time."

High-speed railway should learn from airlines and offer discounts during periods of lower ridership and to those who place early orders, said Mao Shoulong , a professor at Renmin University of China.

Source: Global Times


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