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New bullet train service to China’s northeast starts this month

Shanghai Railway Station will inaugurate new high-speed railway service between Shanghai and China’s northeastern cities on December 28, officials announced yesterday.

The opening of the new service marks another round of competition between railways and domestic airlines that started with the opening of the nation’s first high-speed railway between Shanghai and Beijing.

Seven high-speed railway trips will be scheduled daily between Shanghai and Harbin in Heilongjiang Province, Changchun in Jilin, and Shenyang and Dalian in Liaoning.

Trains that run at about 200 kilometers per hour take 13 hours to arrive to the northeastern cities from the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station. Currently, it takes some 30 hours to go between Shanghai Railway Station and the cities by conventional train.

The railway bureau plans to increase the speed of the trains to some 300 kilometers per hour next summer to compete better with the airlines, the bureau announced.

Airline officials downplayed the impact of the new rail service.

“The opening of the railway line is unlikely to affect the airline’s business,” said Zhou Ling, general manager of a sales department at China Eastern Airlines.

The high speed railway lines within 800 kilometers are competitive with the airlines due to lower ticket prices, on-time service and cell phone signals. But the northeastern cities are over 2,500 kilometers away from Shanghai, said Zhou.

The railway route between Shanghai and Harbin, the longest line, for instance, leaves Shanghai Hongqiao at 9:47am and arrives at 10:44pm at Harbin West Station.

But China Eastern’s flight there takes only 2.5 hours. China Southern, Air China and local Juneyao airlines also have over five flights between Shanghai and the northeastern cities every day.

“If the railways take more than 10 hours, passengers, especially business passengers, are unlikely to choose them,” Zhou said.

Furthermore, a high speed railway ticket between Shanghai and Harbin costs from 898 (US$147.90) to 1,679 yuan, compared with an airline ticket that can be had at times for 1,000 yuan.


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