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Life on the slow train

(Global Times)

15:11, September 26, 2011

What train No.6417 lacks in speed, it makes up for with scenic views. Photo: Wang Shutong/GT

As the National Holiday approaches, many people are busy booking flights or train tickets to go home or on vacation. Most complain of the high prices of such tickets, but they are often in short supply due to the convenience they offer of high-speed travel. Away from these costly options, there is a train that makes the journey from Beijing Railway Station to Tongzhou West daily that costs less than a subway fare at just 1.5 yuan.

Train No.6417 leaves from Beijing Railway Station and makes several stops before arriving at Chengde, Hebei Province. One of those stops is Tongzhou West in the capital's southeastern outskirts at 4:50 pm. It completes the 18-kilometer journey from Beijing Railway Station in just under a half hour – about the same time needed to travel more than 100 kilometers from Beijing to Tianjin on the old, green No.6417's modern cousin, the bullet train.

"This train is too slow," said Xiang Rongfeng, a woman in her 30s who travels between Beijing and Chengde to trade goods. "I take this train just because it's cheap, I don't earn much money and can't afford to take the high-speed train." Opening the window beside her, Xiang let out a deep sigh. "It's too stuffy because there is no air conditioner,"she said.

In contrast, Xu Tao, aged in his mid-40s from Beijing, revels in the train's casual clickety-clack pace. "A month earlier, this train started from Beijing North Station, which was too far from my home," Xu explained. "I ride it because I want to experience the slow life."

As a businessman, Xu is busy throughout the week with little free time. He takes an aeroplane or high-speed train when he has to and drives around the capital. However for him, nothing beats the slow train.

"I can take photos and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. This is impossible to do on high-speed trains," he said. "I can get in touch with nature by opening the window. On air-conditioned bullet trains I feel like I'm in a huge ice cube. The air is terrible inside those carriages."

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