Mon, Sep 24, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Hong Kong-Guangzhou bullet train service launched

CONVENIENCE TRUMPS CRITICS:Passengers at the new high-speed rail station in Hong Kong were happy with the idea of being able to reach China in under 20 minutes

Reuters, HONG KONG

A man holding a large mock train ticket yesterday poses next to a Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link Vibrant Express train on a platform at Shenzhen North Railway Station in Shenzhen, China.

Photo: Bloomberg

Hong Kong’s controversial bullet train got off to a smooth start yesterday, as hundreds of passengers whistled north across the border at speeds of up to 200kph, deepening integration of the former British colony with China.

While the US$11 billion rail project has raised fears for some over Beijing’s encroachment on the territory’s cherished freedoms, passengers at the sleek harbor-front station were full of praise for a service that reaches China in less than 20 minutes.

“Out of 10 points, I give it nine,” said 10-year-old Ng Kwan-lap, who was traveling with his parents on the first train leaving for Shenzhen at 7am. “The train is great. It’s very smooth when it hits speeds of 200 kilometers per hour.”

Chinese immigration officers are stationed in one part of the modernist station that is subject to Chinese law, an unprecedented move that some critics say further erodes the territory’s autonomy.

The project is part of a broader effort by Beijing to fuse the territory into a vast hinterland of the Pearl River Delta, including nine Chinese cities dubbed the Greater Bay Area.

Scores of excited passengers straddled a yellow strip across black tiles that highlighted the demarcation line between Hong Kong and China, while others passed through turnstiles surrounded by red, orange and white balloons.

“I’m excited to experience the high-speed train, even more excited than when I take a plane,” said a 71-year-old retiree surnamed Leung.

The rail link provides direct access to China’s 25,000km national high-speed rail network and authorities on both sides have hailed it as a breakthrough that will bring economic benefits.

“No matter what you think about the new line, high-speed rail is extremely convenient,” said Feng Yan (馮琰), an assistant professor at the Communication University of China in Beijing who took the bullet train from Shenzhen.

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