High-speed rail service was inaugurated yesterday between Wuhan, a metropolis in central China, and Guangzhou, an urban business hub in the country’s southern Guangdong Province. Trains run at an average of 350 km/h (217 mph), reducing the previous ten-hour transit time to just three hours. First-class tickets for the length of the line cost 780 yuan (US$114), while second-class tickets cost 490 yuan (US$72).
The new service, which China’s Ministry of Railways terms “the world’s fastest rail journey”, was put into trial operation beginning 9 December, reaching a maximum speed of 394.2 km/h (245 mph). Stretching approximately 1,000 kilometers and powered by 25 kilovolts AC at a frequency of 50 Hz, the new Wuhan-Guangzhou line is expected to compete aggressively with existing passenger airlines, which saw market share drop as much as 50% when similar rail lines opened last April between Wuhan and Hefei as well as between Shijazhuang and Taiyuan.
China now operates high-speed rail service out of four maintenance hubs, and plans to offer high-speed rail between 70% of its key cities by 2020, covering more than 80% of existing passenger air routes. More than 42 high-speed rail links, capable of supporting 350 km/h speeds and covering approximately 13,000 kilometers, are scheduled for completion by the end of 2012.
|A high-speed train pulls out of China’s new Wuhan station on the first day of service. Source: Xinhua/Cheng Min. Click to enlarge.||Control room of high-speed train, at Wuhan maintenance hub. Source: Xinhua/Cheng Min. Click to enlarge.|