Tuesday, 28 June 2011

£11.25 for a train seat to Beijing.

The Chinese Ministry of Railways is gearing up for the start of the new high-speed service between Beijing and Shanghai on Thursday 30th, and has announced more details.
tickets for the first service thanks to the nice people at Wikipedia Commons
There are going to be 90 trains a day on the new line, 63 of them running at an average speed of 186mph and the rest just a teensy bit slower at 155mph.  These fast services will have a daily passenger capacity of 154,000, and anybody who’s ever travelled in China will know that they’ll be running at full capacity around the clock from day one. The old Jing-Hu railway line will go on operating its 141 trains, some stopping, some slow, some fast, some direct, and carrying another 319,000 passengers every day. That’s 473,000 passengers pretty much every day of the year (China’s transport system doesn’t do bank holidays and Sundays), on just one single route.
As for choice, there’ll soon be everything from high-speed business class to stopping-service hard-seat class, with the cheapest tickets set at 158 kuai (£15) for what’s an 819-mile journey. Even the first-class tickets are set at 935 kuai (£90), which makes the walk-up prices for train journeys in Britain look more laughably unjustified than they already do. On top of these low prices, the Ministry has also announced that students are to receive a 25% discount on tickets, meaning that a student will be able to get from Shanghai to Beijing for £11.25. That’s mental.
Meanwhile, I yesterday posted off my copy of the consultation document for the British HS2 high-speed rail link, which come 2026 will shave a few minutes off the journey time from London to Birmingham (once signal failures, strikes, the wrong kind of leaf/snow/air etc) have been taken into account. The tickets still won’t compete with flying, a swathe of countryside including dozens of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be bulldozed, and even then it’ll produce more carbon dioxide than at present because passengers will be forced to travel to fewer rail hubs to ride a train that soaks up electricity. Here in Kenilworth we’ll have to travel 30 miles to Birmingham to get on the HS2, which won’t stop at Coventry five miles away. China has no Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the new high-speed rail line. If anything, having travelled it many times, I can confirm that it’s pretty much one, big, long Area of Outstanding Man-made Ugliness for 819 miles.

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