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October 15, 2010

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Rail ticket change hints new line will soon open

RAIL passengers can only buy tickets five days in advance at present, as schedules are revamped for the opening of a new high-speed route from Shanghai to Hangzhou.

Usually, travelers can purchase tickets up to 10 days before they travel, and the reduced window for buying all tickets has fuelled speculation that the new line will open soon.

Once that happens, existing non-stop fast train services on the route are likely to be withdrawn, raising concerns among passengers who fear they will have to buy more expensive tickets for the high-speed service.

After the Shanghai-Nanjing high-speed route started operation in July, fast train services were withdrawn.

The Shanghai Railway Bureau, the city's train operator, is expected to reveal details of the new operation soon.

However, insiders say the reduced window for advance ticket sales is in preparation for a new schedule and suggest the Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed rail will open soon after October 22.

More than 30 fast trains operate daily between Shanghai and Hangzhou in neighboring Zhejiang Province. The current trip lasts about 80 minutes. The trip is expected to be cut by half when the high-speed trains are introduced.

When the Shanghai-Nanjing route opened, prices increased 50 percent. If that is repeated with the Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed train, tickets are likely to cost more than 100 yuan (US$15).

Construction on the new high-speed route began in early 2009. It has 12 stops, three in Shanghai and nine in Zhejiang Province.

A recent test showed a train reached a top speed of 416.6 kilometers per hour, the fastest in the world.

The regular speed will be kept at 350 km/h.


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