Feature: Riding China's slow green train on nostalgic trip to prosperity

(Xinhua) 10:47, February 06, 2024

KUNMING, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Why, during China's Spring Festival travel rush, which is dominated by high-speed rail, are there still slow trains with green skin and an average speed of around 50 km per hour still in operation?

"Green train" No. 5652, a slow train journeying from Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan Province to Liupanshui in Guizhou Province, may provide an answer.

This train, which has been in operation since the early 1980s, travels 261 km through 16 stations for a full fare of 36.5 yuan (about 5 U.S. dollars), with the lowest fare between neighboring stations being a mere 6 yuan.

A great aspect of this slow train is its significance to residents in areas such as Malong District, situated nearly 40 km away from Qujing's city center in Yunnan.

For these locals, the trip from Malong District to Qujing's city center takes two-hours with three bus transfers, whereas the "green train" takes only 22 minutes and is both convenient and reasonably priced, with fares as low as 7 yuan.

At Wuguantian station in Malong District, every time as the train makes its stop, the vegetable farmers are waiting for it, carrying baskets on their shoulders.

The farmers highlighted the practicality and importance of this mode of transportation, saying that thanks to the train, the vegetables they planted could be sold at a good price in the city center.

Yang Fengying, 62, often takes this train to sell her vegetables, which she neatly bundles in her 30 kg-laden basket as she travels to the local city market.

She said that selling vegetables through this mode allows her to earn over 200 yuan daily, reaching up to 300 yuan during peak seasons such as the days preceding the Chinese Lunar New Year, when her produce might sell out in less than two hours in the city center.

Yang contrasted this with the limited alternatives she would have without the train. She once relied only on planting vegetables to make a living, earning a mere 10 yuan per hour.

"Working tirelessly throughout the day, my potential earnings would cap at around 100 yuan," she said. "More importantly, for people over 60 years old, employment opportunities are always rare."

This "green train" serves not only as a mode of transportation but also as a mobile marketplace, allowing farmers to sell their vegetables directly on board.

Such a traveling market, similar to a "ferry car" used for transporting produce, helps to contribute to the prosperity of communities along its route.

Aside from commerce, the train also features a reading corner with shelves stocked with books on agricultural planting and breeding techniques, allowing passengers to broaden their knowledge during their journey.

In China, "green trains" stand as indispensable modes of transportation in regions where fast high-speed rail is not yet available.

Even though its operating for non-profit, their inexpensive ticket prices enable mountain dwellers to access education, medical services, work opportunities, and business activities, catering to almost all travel needs.

Lu Heting, a college freshman, recently took the "Green train" No. 5652 to return home for the Spring Festival holiday with her brother.

"This train holds countless memories for me. I'm 18 years old and the train has been in operation for more than 10 years. During my childhood, my mother and I used to take this train to get to my grandmother's home," she said.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Zhong Wenxing)


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