What To Expect From China Railways in 2011

China - HSR in 2011

You may have blinked: in early January 2011 the Chinese Nationwide Railway Conference was held where the railway boss, Liu Zhijun, mixed both the interesting (what’s to be expected this year for China’s railway system) with the boring (all that political propaganda). If you were watching the feed via Chinese Central TV, you got fed with a bunch of officialspeak.

Peeling through that, though, 2011 looks to be one of the most exciting years ever for those of us getting from A to B in China by trains.

1. This year will see the opening of a whole slew of HSR routes, including the critical Beijing-Shanghai, Beijing-Shenzhen and Shanghai-Shenzhen High Speed Railways.

Here’s what’s opening this year on the rails:

  • Beijing-Shanghai HSR
  • Harbin-Dalian HSR
  • Beijing-Shenzhen HSR
  • Tianjin-Qinhuangdao HSR
  • Nanjing-Hangzhou HSR (direct; will skip Shanghai entirely)
  • Shanghai-Shenzhen HSR
  • Wuhan-Yichang HSR
  • Hefei-Bengbu HSR
  • Wuhan-Xiaogan HSR
  • Wuhan-Xianning HSR
  • Xilinhot-Ulanhot Railway
  • Longyan-Xiamen Railway

Here’s a slew of new railways to be built this year:

  • Beijing-Shenyang HSR
  • Beijing-Zhangjiakou-Hohhot HSR
  • Hangzhou-Huangshan HSR
  • Hainan West Ring HSR
  • Shanghai-Nantong Railway
  • Xi’an-Yinchuan Railway
  • Qingdao-Rizhao-Lianyungang Railway
  • Qorla-Golmud Railway
  • Guangzhou West Coast Railway
  • Harbin-Jiamusi Intercity Railway
  • Jiujiang-Jingdezhen Railway

These will be in addition to these railways still being built:

  • Shanghai-Kunming HSR
  • Hefei-Fuzhou HSR
  • Datong-Xi’an HSR
  • Lanzhou-Chongqing HSR
  • Guizhou-Guangzhou Railway
  • Nanning-Guangzhou Railway
  • Lanxin Railway (Second Double-Track Line)
  • Lhasa-Xigaze Railway
  • Central-Southwestern Shanxi Railway

(There is some doubt if the Xiamen-Shenzhen stretch of the Shanghai-Shenzhen HSR can be completed in time, but individual Googling of that bit of the railway line show it’s ready for a late 2011 completion.)

Railways slated to open this year will all open through the year (most might open in the second half or close to the end of the year), although the rail authorities have clearly stated that the Beijing-Shanghai HSR will open mid-June 2011.

Stats-wise, we are seeing CNY 700 billion being thrown into the railways this year. We’re adding 7,935 km of new tracks (as well as another 6,211 km thrown in as double track) — although those stats are only for “track laying” mileage (no guarantee if those railways will open this year!). In terms of new railway mileage designed for passenger service this year, that’s 7,901 km of new track and another 6,861 km of double track. 8,800 km of tracks will get electrified. Most importantly, this year, we’ll see 4,715 km of new HSR lines ready for all of us.

In late 2011, China will sport over 13,000 km of HSR in operation; by 2015, that’ll be 16,000 km. It’s going to be a tall order for any other country to play catch-up with China once that’s>/em> done.

2. China’s railway system will also see some major changes when it comes to passenger service.

HSR travellers are going to be impressed by world-class service (although that’s a bit hard to make sense of if the VIP class lounge at the Beijing South Railway Station remains unattended!), and customized services will be all the rage.

Those travelling by regular rail will also see major improvements in ticketing, station amenities, food and drinks and sanitation.

When it comes to buying tickets over the Web, 2011 will see major inroads in that direction, as well as paying for your tickets by China UnionPay cards. (No word on “international” credit cards: you might still need “hard” Renminibi Yuan to pay for your HSR cruise if you don’t have a local card.)

Finally, when it comes to those behind the railways — in rail Chinglish, “working staff” and “ticket inspectors”, not the very least — salaries will rise (10% or more, year-over-year). Problems involving housing for rail personnel will also see improvements.

Rolling stock will see big improvements. The all-new CRH380A and CRH380B train sets will be in service more and more often. Riders will be able to benefit from a three-class configuration (VIP class aka Best Seats, First Class and Standard Class) on all trains — even short-haul trains (although Best Seats there will be very limited). Long-haul trains will feature a proper dining car instead of a mere minibar. VIP class seats will have the airlines eating their hearts out: promised here is the prospect of a lie-flat bed on the rails.

China’s looking ahead to some really, really good times on the rails — and 2011 will be but the start of what’s likely to be an HSR success story. So — what’s with the 2nd Beijing Airport?

Do we still need that in this day and age of the HSR?

This item was first posted in a constituent site which was later merged with Tracking China. It was posted before 2012 and may contain outdated content. If a specific date/timestamp was not found, the default used instead is at 12 noon Beijing time.

By David Feng

David Feng — founder and publisher, Tracking China, a Street Level China website.

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