China on Fast Trains

Authors: Victor Paul Borg


The author of the article, Mr. Victor Paul Borg is from Malta. He has lived in six countries on three continents and spent much of the past 12 years in Asia. He currently spends his time in Europe and China. His travel articles and photographs have been published around the world.
You can go almost everywhere on fast trains in China. China already boasts the most extensive high-speed rail network in the world, and has become one of the global leaders in high-speed rail. The high-speed train, Fuxing, which initially started servicing the Beijing-Shanghai route, is among the fastest trains in the world at an operational speed of 350km/hr. Fast trains had been established in Japan, France and Germany before China's adoption of the mode of transport. That's a remarkable achievement for a latecomer to high-speed rail system of transport.
The extensive high-speed train network has now completely altered the experience of train travel in China. The normal speed trains have their allure as the tireless, slow movers of the seething masses of China. These trains are long - at least incredible for those of us who hail from countries where trains are much shorter - and within them, in long distance travel, it was possible to meet a range of Chinese people up-close and personal. You could observe whole families eating, sleeping, playing, chatting, or simply reclining intimately and contortedly as the train chugged along laboriously on its long journey. It was possible to write portraits of China simply by travelling on trains, just as it was possible - if you were photographically inclined - to capture intimate and evocative portraits of Chinese people's personal lives on public view in trains.
High-speed trains have a different sort of feel. The travel is more formal. High-speed trains are a different view of China, a view of a country that is modern and confident and organized, a country on the move and with no time to lose.
The point of fast trains is to get you to your destination speedily and comfortably. Starting from Chengdu, nearby regional capitals are now within striking distance. It is now possible to get to Chongqing in less than two hours and to Xi'an in four hours, and that's almost as fast as travel by plane. I mean, if you have to get to the airport 90 minutes before the plane's departure for the one-hour flight to Xi'an, then the train journey will only take 2 hours more overall.
More lines are worth noting. Chengdu-Ya'an railway was put into use on December 28, 2018. Another line that is expected to become operational will link Chengdu and Guizhou. the Chengdu-Lanzhou train, with a speed up to around 200km/hr, passes through Jiuzhaigou, travelling through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world, seeing the landscape transforming over the track, from the subtropical mountains that arise north of Chengdu to the rolling grasslands and pine forests at the eastern fringes of the plateau.

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