Tickets go on sale for high-speed rail link between Beijing and Guangzhou
Quicker and cheaper to go by air than use Guangzhou's high-speed service to Beijing
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Tickets for the much-hyped high-speed rail link between Beijing and Guangzhou went on sale yesterday, with prices ranging from 865 yuan (HK$1,067) in second class to 1,383 yuan in first class and 2,972 yuan for the VIP lounge - slightly cheaper per kilometre than the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed service.
However, many travellers were shocked to learn that the eight-hour journey would cost about the same as commonly available discounted airline tickets for flights that complete the journey in only 31/2 hours.
The 2,298-kilometre track connecting the capital to the Pearl River Delta is the world's longest bullet-train line.
It will eventually allow high-speed trips between Beijing and Hong Kong, after the Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed link's scheduled completion in 2015.
Cat Chen, a 33-year-old advertising agent who often travels from Guangzhou to Beijing, said she would never consider taking the high-speed train unless air tickets were sold out. "This is not much cheaper than flying but it takes eight hours, I just don't see the point," she said.
Tammy Wu, who often flies to Beijing to visit family, would take the train only over the Lunar New Year holiday, when airlines charged full price. "I think it's more reasonable for the high-speed rail service to cost around 500 to 600 yuan," Wu said.
Airlines have also slashed fares in response to the release of the ticket prices for the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed line and are also offering big discounts. Next week, airfares as low at 150 yuan - an 86 per cent discount - are being offered for flights from Wuhan to Beijing. A flight from Guangzhou to Beijing on Boxing Day is on offer for about 800 yuan. When 180 yuan in airport and fuel surcharges are added, flying is only slightly more expensive than the rail service.
The first service from Beijing to Guangzhou will leave the capital at 10am on Wednesday and hit speeds of 300km/h. The first train from Guangzhou to Beijing will depart at 10am that day.
Second-class travel will cost about 38 fen a kilometre, compared with 42 fen on the Beijing-Shanghai line.