China tested its 2,298km high-speed rail line, the longest in the world, as it prepares to start passenger service on Wednesday.
Bullet-trains on the line from Beijing to southern city of Guangzhou can run at an average speed of 300km per hour, Xinhua news agency said.
It will shorten the rail travel time from the capital to the Pearl River Delta to about eight hours from the previous 24 hours.
China is accelerating railway investment again after it introduced new safety measures following a deadly bullet-train crash in Wenzhou that killed 40 people in July last year. Railway investment as of October rose almost 250 percent from a year earlier as the government stepped up fiscal measures to help growth.
“Government-driven investment has quick effects on boosting growth in the short term,” said Yuan Gangming (袁鋼明), a researcher with a government think tank based in Beijing. “But you can’t rely on investment to drive growth forever.”
Yuan said China had made a “great leap forward” in spending on railways since 2008 and this is expected to “normalize” in coming years with the completion of major lines such as the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed link.
More than 100 Chinese and international journalists were invited to join yesterday’s test run, Xinhua said.
The bullet-train line will be extended to Hong Kong in the future and will add to competition for China Southern Airlines A380s flying between the cities, a flight lasting about three hours with an economy class ticket costing 1,620 yuan (US$260).
A second-class train ticket on the line, which winds through major inland cities, including Zhengzhou, Wuhan and Changsha, costs 865 yuan, while a first-class ticket costs 1,388 yuan, Xinhua said.
Competition from the new railway line for airlines operating Beijing-Wuhan and Beijing-Zhengzhou flights will be intense, China’s state television reported yesterday.
China Southern Airlines is offering discounts of as much as 73 percent and Air China is offering a 57 percent discount for flights between Beijing and Wuhan on Wednesday, according to company Web sites.