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June 16, 2011

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Smiles all round as attendants get ready

"REMEMBER, you must only show six teeth when you smile," an instructor told a line of purple uniformed young women yesterday at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station.

Each placed a chopstick between her jaws to help ensure she attained the perfect smile.

If any failed to master the six-tooth smile, there were plenty of other candidates ready to step in, as about 3,000 applicants were vying for 400 rail attendant vacancies on the new Beijing-Shanghai high-speed link.

Aged between 19 and 25, around 165 centimeters tall and fluent English speakers, these 400 women will provide flight-attendant-style service along the Shanghai section of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, which opens later this month.

After five rounds of selection and six months of training, yesterday they were gearing up for the start of the service.

"The requirements here are the same as for flight attendants," said Chen Xi, who in the past worked as cabin crew. Chen said she chose rail over air as it's a more stable lifestyle.

More recently, she worked as an attendant in the Shanghai-Nanjing high-speed rail line. Reluctant to reveal the salary, Chen said the pay on the railway is lower than on flights, but "good enough."

A total of 133 experienced attendants like Chen were transferred from other bullet train lines this time.

For rookies, the training has been tough. Zhang Jingju, who graduated from college majoring in logistics, said it's been a steep learning curve.

"The hardest part is the manners training," said Zhang, who spends two hours each day on basic manners.

"They work hard and have the potential to be better," said He Ying, a senior attendant since 1988, who was asked to train the attendants.

He said it's completely different to his time on trains, when they were crowded and chaotic, and attendants rude and unhelpful.

On the new service, passengers can rank service received from attendants, as well as facilities, meal, and safety onboard.

Officials said there will be 15 attendants on each high-speed train which can carry more than 1,000 passengers.

He said attendants would also provide city traffic and tourism information.

Blankets and cushions will also be available to passengers in top-class and first-class carriages, He added.


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