The world’s longest high speed railway is now open for business. Connecting the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Guangzhou, the 2,298 kilometre (1,428 miles) railway cuts the journey between the two cities from 21 hours to just 7 hours 59 minutes.
Importantly, the new line connects Beijing with 30 other major cities in China and gives China the world’s biggest high speed rail system.
The northern terminus is the impressive Beijing West Station which, with an area of 510,000 square kilometres is the largest station in Asia. This station can cater for up to 400,000 passengers daily and services the western and south western rail services. It is from this station that, arguably, the world’s most difficult railway construction, the Beijing to Lhasa line, also departs.
Naturally, there are premium fares to be paid to travel on the High Speed trains and for those wishing to take the older and slower route to Guangzhou that journey also departs from Beijing West.
In order to facilitate a faster service across the country the new line avoids many urban areas. The line is a purpose-built passenger line to avoid hold ups from goods and slower passenger services which use the busiest railway routes within China.
Apart from the termini at Beijing and Guanghzou there are just four stops on the whole journey. From north to south these are Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou, Wuhan and Changsha. Because the line generally avoids urban areas in some of these cities you may need a further commute in order to reach the city centre. This situation will change when the local metro services in Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou and Wuhan are expanded to link up with the high speed rail stations. Presently, you can transfer to directly to other lines at Shijiazhuang and Wuhan.
Each train has first and second class carriages which are modern and, unlike their slower counterparts, kept clean. Each carriage normally has four toilets, being two western style and two Asian squat-style facilities. For those wishing to connect to the world there are AC power facilities available for each seat, and wi-fi is also provided, although connections may be slow due to heavy use. Obviously you have more room and greater comfort in the first class section.
The trains were designed to travel at 350kph, but the speed is currently limited to 300kph as a safety precaution following a bad accident involving another high speed train.