Bullet train rides in China pinch travellers

Thursday, January 13, 2011

BEIJING - As China rolls out its prized 350-plus/kmph bullet trains for the public, many travellers have complained that the expensive service has burnt a hole in their pocket.

China has the world’s longest high-speed rail network with over 8,350 km., according to the railways ministry. But the opening of more fast train services has led to fewer regular trains being available, leading to the displeasure of the budget-conscious passengers, China Daily reported.

Thousands of Chinese are expected to travel to their hometowns during the spring holiday season, but many are dissatisfied over limited options and high travel costs.

The railways ministry has launched luxury and fast train services on several routes to provide diversified services to the travellers.

A luxury sleeper service such as the one between Shanghai and Chengdu cities could costs up to 2,330 yuan ($352), which many people cannot afford, according to the daily.

The Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post said that hundreds of berths in the Shanghai-Chengdu bullet trains would run empty due to higher fares.

Many travellers who used to take the regular trains because of the cheaper fares have opted for long-distance buses this year, which will put extra pressure on road transport, said transport ministry spokesman He Jianzhong.

The ministry has estimated a record 2.6 billion bus passengers during the peak holiday period from Jan 19 to Feb 27.

To handle this traffic, 840,000 buses, including 70,000 added this year, will ply during this period, He said.

In addition, increasingly affluent air travellers seem to be opting for high-speed train services. Wang Changshun, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said a few airlines were forced to cancel short-distance flights on some routes that are catered by bullet trains.

The Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway has carried more than 20 million passengers since its opening in December 2009. The number of flights in the sector during that period was cut from an average of 11.5 flights daily to three flights per day, China Daily quoted Wang as saying.

The Hainan and Shenzhen airlines have stopped their services, leaving only the China Southern Airlines in the sector that currently runs three daily flights, he said.

Ticket prices were also slashed by 15 percent to attract passengers on those flights, but despite that, their numbers dropped by 48 percent to 390,000 in 2010.

“The opening of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line next year will be another blow to the air transport industry,” Wang added.

Filed under: Economy

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