By mid-May 2016, a vastly improved national railway timetable will be implemented, according to China Railway Corporation. There will be 600 new trains (300 new pairs) in service, bringing the total number of nationwide passenger train services to around 6,800 (3,400 pairs). This new improvement is one of the largest in recent years and will feature the most train services added.
Here are eight key pointers on why this new timetable is such a “big deal”.
1. Major improvements for high speed rail. A grand total of 4,200 high speed trains (2,100 pairs) will run under the new timetable, and there will be visible improvements on Beijing-Shanghai and Beijing-Guangzhou routes as their importance is further elevated. The new trains will meet increasing demand by the ridership.
2. More trains for 3rd and 4th tier cities. Now, 3rd and 4th tier cities will be served with more trains, including more starting and terminating at these cities. This will mean better travel options for the smaller cities in China. It’s also a nod to China’s urbanisation in progress.
3. More trains to and from Central and Western China. 200 new trains (100 pairs) will now service Central and Western China, bringing more “rail benefits” to an even wider population across China.
4. More trains for tourists. There will be 60 new rail routes for mostly tourists travelling to popular destinations.
5. More intercity and suburban trains. They will make it easier to get around larger metropolitan areas and will also bring improvements to city public transport.
6. More overnight high speed trains. Expect to see around 200 new trains (100 pairs) of late night and overnight HSR trains, especially on the Beijing-Shanghai, Beijing-Guangzhou, Nanjing-Hangzhou, Guangzhou-Shenzhen, and Guiyang-Guangzhou routes.
7. Improve efficiency in the new timetable. These will include operational improvements, better arrangements of stations served, improving and optimising arrival and departure times, and more, including better interchanges between HSR and regular rail trains, and between interregional and local services.
8. Improve cargo rail transport. These will include more trains from China to Asia and Europe, ultimately meaning 250 cargo trains being operated.
Whilst the new timetables are being refined and finalised, there will be some restrictions on ticket sales. As of 14 March 2016, you will only be able to buy trains departing on 12 May 2016 or earlier, although this suspension should be over by mid-April 2016. The railways will announce the new timetables on the Web, via social media, and at stations.