Hong Kong is a step closer to having its much-demanded through-train - not a political model but a swaying, clanking diesel one that meanders the 2,550 kilometres to Beijing. Billed as 'China's dream of the century', the 40 billion yuan (HK$37 billion) Beijing-Kowloon Railway will not, however, make its final hop across the border to Hunghom until the handover. Instead, it terminates at Shenzhen. The Ministry of Railway's Vice Minister Sun Yongfu said at the inauguration yesterday that officials had not yet sorted out immigration and Customs procedures with Hong Kong authorities. 'This new service symbolises a new link between the political capital of Beijing and the economic hub of Hong Kong,' he said, standing on the platform in Shenzhen to see the first train pull out. At the other end, Vice Prime Minister Zou Jiahua was officiating at an identical ceremony at the new Beijing West Station to see off the first through-train to Shenzhen. More than 100,000 workers have spent more than three years completing the railway, the idea for which was initiated by Sun Yat-sen when he pointed out the importance of a railway trunk line linking north and south. Running at 60 kilometres an hour, the 1,000-seat train passes through 98 cities and towns in nine provinces and can reach Beijing in 48 hours. The Vice Minister said it was hoped to cut travelling time to 38 hours by late next year when the service was in full swing. At present there is only one train a day supplementing the existing Beijing-Guangzhou service. The fare for a sleeping bunk is 598 yuan. Among the first passengers aboard the 4.15 pm inaugural train yesterday was Ngok Yee, 60, of Wan Chai. He was going to Nanchang, Jiangxi province, with his Shenzhen relatives. 'They queued for a whole day for tickets. It's my first time on a long-haul train. It's like boarding a jet for the first time,' said Mr Ngok.