My recent experience in south China was only riding on High Speed Trains or the HSR for segments between Chaoshan station near Shantou and Wuyi Shan station a thousand km north west.
The HSR station did slow down to stop at certain major cities along the way like Fuzhou. The trains had commenced from Shenzen first thing in the day and was heading to reach Beijing in the evening. The benefits of such an infrastructure were already obvious to me, especially in a populous nation like China, with numerous conurbations, industries and economic activity. A thousand years ago, the Grand Canal from central to northern China had already illustrated the significant benefits of a transport path that transformed the economy and politics of a growing nation.
At the most, my group experienced a maximum train speed of around 285 km per hour. I understand the Shanghai to Beijing express normally exceeds that speed. The record speed achieved for a Non-Maglev train was in 2011 when a speed of 487.3 km per hour was recorded on a Beijing to Shanghai test run. The Shanghai Maglev train can chalk up to speeds of 431 km per hour.
There are different companies in China allocated to operate the various HSR lines across this vast nation. So apparently operational service quality can vary. My group was happy with the high standards shown in customer service to my group of six seated with first class cabin tickets. The rolling stock however is centrally owned by the China Railway Corporation.
|Photo credit - Ms. Gan Siok San|
The HSR stations are huge with sizeable waiting halls. There are various snack shops and restaurants to while the time away, for it is always good to be early than late when catching the HSR.
Boarding and disembarkation is orderly and tickets are issued with lots of security measures. Electrical points, clothes hooks and snacks are liberally provided. The aisle between seats in our specific coach is wider than on aircraft business class.
I observed on-board toilets on HSR trains in China are cleaned regularly per hour. Staff are smartly dressed. The take off on these HDR trains is so smooth and stable to passengers, I did not even feel it! The technology was initially implemented through agreements with Siemens, Alstom, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Bombardier, but later developed further with Chinese input. China has the longest mileage of high speed train networks in the world, befitting a nation with many long distance points to connect.
I was impressed that the HSR could operate on a high mountain region like Wuyi Shan. This UNESCO world heritage site has elevations from 200 to 2000 metres above sea level. Back in Australia, the powers that be gave an opinion that it was not possible to build a fast train network through hilly terrain - so when I was sitting in the HSR, with my window views hurtling through topography and scenery that was more rugged than in Wollongong, I realised that I had been hoodwinked.
The importance of having sufficient funding to build and realise the HSR is critical - many nations just do not have the funds tucked under their belt.
HSR maximum speeds in China were moderated after an incident near Wenzhou several years ago in central China. The HSR runs on specially built platforms that carry only the dedicated rail track, so it is inevitable that these tracks are built far away from already developed sections of the landscape. To travel to a HSR station is a treat itself, for by road one gets to view the surrounding city streets and country side before arriving.
There is therefore a transport business opportunity for the locals in picking up and dropping off HSR passengers. I am happy that public and personal security is tightly enforced at such stations. Bags are scanned through machines and tickets are issued only when personal identity documents are matched with on line booking details. Passengers are only allowed on to boarding platforms around ten to fifteen minutes before the specific HSR arrives.
Over the side seat racks are relatively narrow to hold luggage, so do avoid bringing bags that are too large - medium size would be the practical maximum to put them on such racks. Travel is made with not much stress on these HSR.