Travellers in China will soon have the choice of travelling on the world’s longest high-speed train line or flying on an Airbus SAS A380 superjumbo when going from Beijing to Guangzhou.
A 2,298-kilometre line linking the nation’s capital and the southern city will open December 26, according to a statement by the Ministry of Railways on Friday, whisking passengers between the two in as few as eight hours. The trains will initially run at a speed of 300 kilometres per hour.
The new line adds to competition for China Southern Airlines’ A380s flying between the cities, a three- hour flight. The carrier has already lost money on domestic A380 services in the first half, according to Citigroup. The planes have been used on the route for about a year as the airline has so far failed to fly them on overseas services from Beijing.
The bullet-train line, which will eventually connect to Hong Kong, is part of China’s plans to build a 16,000-kilometre long network by 2015. The services have lured passengers from flights that often suffer delays in China because of airspace restrictions and poor weather.
Nationwide rail passenger numbers rose 4.6 per cent to 1.7 billion through November, according to the ministry. The numbers have climbed because of the opening of new lines and the easing of safety concerns following a fatal crash last year.
“The service marks a significant milestone of our high- speed rail construction,” the ministry said in the statement. “It will ease pressure on the rail transport between Beijing and Guangzhou, especially during the peak Chinese New Year holiday.”
Guangzhou, China Southern’s home city, is in the Pearl River Delta region, one of the nation’s major manufacturing centers. It’s less than 200 kilometers northwest of Hong Kong.
China Southern dropped as much as 1.3 per cent in Hong Kong trading today. It was down 0.5 per cent at HK$3.74 as of the lunchtime trading break. The benchmark Hang Seng Index rose 0.6 per cent.
The rail ministry has not yet to announced ticket prices for the new high-speed service, which mainly uses China CNR trains. A one-way China Southern flight from Beijing to Guangzhou leaving tomorrow was priced at at least 1,620 yuan (HK$$1,997), according to the carrier’s website.
A high-speed train line connecting Beijing and Shanghai, China’s two biggest cities, opened in June last year. About a month later, 40 people died in a crash on a different line near the eastern city of Wenzhou.