High-speed rail to link Shenzhen, Guangzhou

GUANGZHOU - Service on the 102-km high-speed railway between Shenzhen and Guangzhou, in South China's Guangdong province, is scheduled to start on Monday.

The fast trains will be a new option for the many passengers between the two economically developed cities adjacent to Hong Kong, where the railway will extend to in 2015.

A non-stop trip between the Guangzhou South Station and the Shenzhen North Station will take 35 minutes at full speed, 34 minutes faster than the 139-km rail link between the Guangzhou East Station and Luohu Station in Shenzhen, according to the Guangzhou Railway Group Corp. The trains will run at a maximum hourly speed of 300 km initially.

All 36 pairs of trains that will run daily, mainly CRH3-model cars, will stop at the Humen Station in Dongguan city, with five pairs also stopping at Qingsheng Station in Guangzhou and nine pairs at the Guangmingcheng Station in Shenzhen.

A one-way first-class ticket costs 100 yuan (S$20.00) and a second-class one, 75 yuan. The latter fare is 5 yuan cheaper than a second-class ticket on the slower line.

High-speed service between Guangzhou and Shenzhen will be a convenient choice for some people, especially those living in or traveling close to the five stations and those transferring to other high-speed trains from Guangzhou. The terminals are connected to the subway systems of the two cities.

"I won't need to travel to Guangzhou East Station to take a train to Shenzhen," said Wang Yi, who lives in Panyu district in Guangzhou.

Many will still prefer the slower trains, given that their terminals in Guangzhou and Shenzhen are located in the city proper. The terminals of the high-speed trains are situated in less-populated areas of both cities.

"To me, it is inconvenient to take a high-speed train between Guangzhou and Shenzhen because it is time-consuming to get to the Guangzhou South Station in the first place and to travel on from the Shenzhen North Station," said Zhang Lu, who lives in downtown Guangzhou.

Slower trains also run more frequently.

However, many expect the high-speed trains to become more attractive when the line extends to Hong Kong in 2015.

High-speed trains will also offer more advanced facilities than ordinary ones, including more comfortable seats, audio and video entertainment and power outlets in the first-class carriages. There will also be toilets for the disabled and a baby changing station.

A Guangzhou-Shenzhen high-speed train has 556 seats, including 16 in the VIP rooms, 50 in first class and 50 in the dining carriage.

China's railway projects have been burgeoning since the country rolled out a 4 trillion yuan stimulus plan to counter the financial crisis of 2008.

But the sector was hit hard in the second half of 2011, after the government tightened liquidity, and a deadly train crash eroded investor confidence and limited the ministry's ability to raise money.

In 2012, the government plans to cut spending on railway infrastructure construction to 400 billion yuan from 469 billion yuan this year, Railways Minister Sheng Guangzu said last week.