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Long-distance relationships come a little bit closer

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

11:28, July 01, 2013

Su Miaoquan has already planned his longest vacation of the year, the National Day Holidays that fall in the first week of October - three days will be spent visiting his parents back home in Wenzhou, two days shopping with his girlfriend in Shanghai and two days getting together with friends in Nanjing.

"Thanks to the upcoming Nanjing-Hangzhou-Ningbo high-speed railway, I've got everything arranged," said the 28-year-old, who was born in Zhejiang's Wenzhou and took a job in Jiangsu's provincial capital of Nanjing.

A new high-speed railway that stretches across East China's Yangtze River Delta will cut the travel time between Nanjing to Hangzhou from four hours to about 70 minutes starting from July 1.

Shanghai used to be a forced stop between the two cities if traveling by train, but the new line avoids that extra 200 kilometers and opts for a more direct route.

With the launch of the new line, Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou, the three most important cities in Yangtze River Delta, are now about an hour away from each other by train.

"It forms the shape of a triangle if you connect the three cities on the map. Unfortunately, the Nanjing-Hangzhou side of the triangle is rather weak, whether in terms of aggregate economic volume, size and number of cities on the way or the levels of those cities' industrial structure," said Yu Hongsheng, director of the Urban Development Research Center from Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Connecting Nanjing and Hangzhou directly by train makes that side the focus of the Yangtze River Delta's future development, according to Yu.

"The new rail's Hangzhou-Ningbo part will also cut that trip to 53 minutes and that makes my total journey back home (from Nanjing to Wenzhou) less than four-and-a-half hours - it used to be 17 hours," said Su.

The new Hangzhou-Ningbo rail helps the original high-speed route stretch further southward to several important economic hubs in the region such as Wenzhou and Xiamen in Fujian.

Su started his "tale of two cities" 10 years ago when he was admitted to a university in Nanjing.

"No high-speed train was available before 2008, the 10-hour-long bumpy bus was the only option if you didn't want to spend most of a day - 17 hours - on the slow train," he said. "Seven-and-a-half hours was the best record for the high-speed (train, which passed through Shanghai) before the new railway went into operation."

Su didn't become a train buff until recently, not only because the opening of the Nanjing-Hangzhou-Ningbo line saves his time traveling back home, but also due to the role the high-speed train plays in his long-distance relationship.

"My girlfriend was just transferred to Shanghai for six months training for her new job, and you have to admit the less-than-one-hour high-speed train traveling between Shanghai and Nanjing makes my life easier," he said, adding most of his weekends were spent in Shanghai rather than Nanjing.

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