Like a well oiled machine China officially kicked off today the first train on its long awaited Beijing to Shanghai high speed rail line, according to state news agency Xinhua. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, riding aboard the first train departing from the Beijing South Railway Station, noted that “the railway’s construction was an important decision by the state and of great significance to improve the country’s modern transportation system, promote the economic and social development, and satisfy people’s need for swift movement.”
The 819 mile line between the two major Chinese cities, which reportedly opened one year ahead of schedule, will have some 90 trains traveling on it daily on a journey that takes a little under five hours. Plans originally called for trains up to 217 miles per hour, but those were ultimately abandoned over potential safety issues. Although the line is designed to handle trains up to that speed, most will instead travel between 155 and 186 MPH.
As we’ve noted before, this high speed rail project certainly was not a cheap undertaking for the Chinese. The total cost of the project is said to be around $339.5 million. Ticket costs for seating on one of these high speed rail trains will range from $63 to $270 dollars, likely depending upon which train is taken and what class of service traveled in. Wen, who didn’t ride the entire way, did speak to the high cost of the tickets by noting that “the pricing of high-speed railways must satisfy demands of different kinds of consumers” and that “the country will keep the current passenger rail lines that run at ordinary speeds while developing high-speed rails.”
Even as the world’s longest single high speed rail gets underway, China is not resting on its laurels. Plans are in place to have over 18,600 miles of new track laid down by 2015. Total investment in railways reportedly “during the coming five years is put at 2.8 trillion yuan ($430 billion), an increase of 41.5 percent from 2006-2010.”
Curious to learn more about high speed rail? Read our archive of coverage here.