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October 22, 2010

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Prices rise for speedy rail link

HIGH-SPEED travel will come with higher prices on the new Shanghai-Hangzhou intercity rail line as fares are going to increase by more than 50 percent, the rail company has announced.

The standard ticket price on the high-speed rail line, which goes into service on October 26, will be 82 yuan (US$12.33), 51 percent higher than the fare for the current generation of fast trains along the route.

Shanghai Railway Bureau, which has invested in the line and will supervise rail services, released ticket prices and operation models yesterday.

While less than the 56 percent price jump when high-speed trains went into service on the Shanghai-Nanjing route in July, the increase on the new line will still lead to complaints about soaring fares.

Passengers can buy tickets from 8am today at local rail ticket booths. First-class tickets will cost 131 yuan.

The bullet train, with an operational speed of 350 kilometers per hour, cuts the trip to Hangzhou in neighboring Zhejiang Province to 45 minutes. The current fastest train takes 80 minutes to complete the 200-kilometer route.

The trains, identified by the leading letter "G," will operate from the city's Hongqiao Railway Station in a transport hub together with the airport, long-distance bus station and subways.

Ten high-speed rail services will terminate at Shanghai Railway Station. The price for this service is 98 yuan for a standard ticket and 156 yuan for a first-class ticket.

The fast trains that now run between the two cities travel at between 200-250kph. Standard tickets cost 54 yuan and first class 64 yuan.

Rail officials said higher prices reflect "a smoother and faster journey."

About 80 of the new "G" trains will arrive at and depart from the Hongqiao hub from 6:12am to 9:45pm every day. Some 60 of the older fast trains will remain in service, said rail officials.

Many people have welcomed the new line. "I can step out of my small hometown more often after I retire," said Dai Jianqi, 56, a Zhejiang native whose hometown is in Tongxiang, where a new high-speed rail stop is located.

Dai recalled how, as a young student, he had to take small boat from his village to a larger town, from where he took a train to Shanghai to visit relatives. The journey took almost a day, he said.

Sun Zhang, a professor of rail transport with Tongji University, said the price is affordable and it's good that the current regular services will be retained. He added: "The market reaction will decide price and schedule changes."

Construction began on the line in 2009. It has nine stops along the route, six in Zhejiang and the rest in Shanghai.


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