China is going railway crazy with the opening of the new express line between the country’s two most important cities – Beijing and Shanghai.
Tickets for first trains sold out within minutes and Monday’s launch was timed to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party.
The Chinese government hopes that the knowledge it gains from building this line will lead to exports opportunities.
Ministry of Railways chief engineer He Huawu said: “Countries that are currently building high speed railways can draw on the experience of China, such as its standards, construction ability and integration methods.”
The 1,300 kilometre long line – which took an amazingly speedy 39 months to build – is designed to carry 80 million passengers a year, providing strong competition for China’s airlines.
But there have been complaints about the prestigious line’s high cost and accusations that it is a vanity project that will struggle to ever make a profit.
Critics said there should be more affordable seats and in April, the government announced ticket prices would be cut.
Addressing safety concerns Zhang Yuan, Chief Engineer with the Control System Project of the Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway said: “All of the essential facilities on the line have reached the highest safety standards of Europe. Also, the Ministry of Railways has conducted a strict quality survey on the whole project. We have also had an independent safety survey on the whole control system conducted by a third-party organisation. The safety methods we have taken are no different from those of other countries, therefore I think we are able to make sure this new railway is safe.”
This is the latest portion of a network the government plans will stretch 45,000 kilometres by the end of 2015. But analysts said the heavily indebted Railways Ministry may have to cut back on those plans.