Railway Ministry announces trip will take less than four hours, versus previously announced five.
China’s Beijing-Shanghai high-speed connection, which is the most important link in the country’s ambitious rail plans, will be faster than previously announced when it fully opens in 2013. The project was designed from the start for trains capable of 217 mph top speeds, but the government estimated total trip time of five hours on the 819 mile corridor, which would have meant average speeds of 164 mph on the whole line, a bit above typical for a corridor of this type. The country has now announced that its ambitions are even larger, and that trains will average over 200 mph to make the trip in less than four hours.
What’s significant about this announcement is that it means that trains will be moving at speeds higher than the 217 mph initially proposed for the major parts of the trip, making this by far the fastest conventional high-speed line in the world when it opens. The decrease in travel time from five hours to four also will allow trains to take a far higher percentage of the market share on China’s most important intercity link. Though three hours is typically seen as the time barrier under which trains can take travel share from airlines, a four hour trip on this corridor will make it a very popular choice for a link that already carries 10 percent of the country’s rail traffic. A trip between the cities today takes around 12 hours by rail.
The distance between Beijing and Shanghai is roughly equivalent to that between New York and Chicago.
China’s Railway Ministry sees its investment in new corridors as an essential way to avoid congestion as the country develops. China only has 1/50th of the number of airports as the U.S., but its high-speed railway network, measuring up to 7,000 miles by 2020, will be the longest in the world.
Beijing’s increased confidence in its capacity to deliver what amounts to the world’s most advanced high-speed corridor will be buoyed by a favorable stock market reaction, because the country is likely to list a holding company controlling the corridor on the stock market. Doing so would allow China to raise further funds for fast rail expansion, making this corridor only the first among many.