The longest high-speed rail route in the world that is to connect Southern China’s leading commercial hub of Guangzhou with the national capital of Beijing is set to begin operation on December 26, reducing the journey to eight hours from the previous 24 by conventional rail. The train will stop in several cities along the way, including Wuhan (read more about the city here) and Changsha, the capital city of Hunan Province. The maximum speed is 350km per hour, but initially, the train will run at 250km to 300km per hour. The extension to Hong Kong is scheduled to open in 2015, and by then travellers will be able to reach Beijing from Hong Kong in nine hours.
But the new rail line is unlikely to affect the airline industry, as fares are rather high. There are two types of trains for the Guangzhou-Beijing service: Those with numbers starting with the letter “G” and others with “D”. The former will run at 300km per hour and the latter at 250km per hour. The cheapest ticket for the G train is priced at RMB865 (US$139) one way, and the business class fare is RMB2,700 (US$433). The cheapest ticket for the G train costs RMB712 (US$114).
At press time, a restrictive one-way economy air ticket from Guangzhou to Beijing on China Southern on December 26 is available for as little as RMB970 (US$156), while a first class ticket starts from RMB1,780 (US$286), not including the airport tax of RMB50 (US$8) and fuel surcharge of RMB130 (US$21). The flight journey takes about three hours.
Getting a ticket for the high-speed rail in China can also be a hassle. The official website www.12306.cn has no English information and it only allows registered users with credit cards from Chinese banks to book online. China Travel Service’s (CTS) website (www.ctshk.com) only offers booking service for through-train between Hong Kong and Guangzhou East, although it does sell high-speed rail tickets from its offices in Hong Kong. Another way is to ask the hotel you plan to stay at in China to book tickets for you, but additional fees may apply.