Two bullet trains glided silently out of a gleaming new station Tuesday to inaugurate China's latest high speed rail line, as officials boasted of setting world records using domestic technology.
Many, but not all, of the trains plying the new railway between Shanghai's western suburb of Hongqiao and Hangzhou will travel the 200 kilometers (126 miles) in 45 minutes, about half the time trains usually take to make the trip at their fastest speeds. The China-made CRH380 train has been clocked at almost 420 kilometers per hour (262 mph), a world speed record, though it will usually operate at a maximum speed of 350 kph (220 mph). China aims to
have 13,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) of high speed rail in operation by 2012.
The efforts to develop China's own ultra high speed rail technology is a showcase project nearly on a par with the country's space program in terms of national pride and importance. Railway officials recently announced they were working on technology to boost speeds to over 500 kph (312 mph).
Railway Ministry spokesman Wang Yongping said all the technology, design and equipment of the CRH380 is China's own, though he acknowledged that the program began in cooperation with Japan and other countries.
"Now other countries are wanting to cooperate with us. They all want our technology," he told reporters.
One of the biggest high-speed rail lines under construction is a $32.5 billion, 1,318-kilometre (824 mile) Beijing-to-Shanghai high-speed railway that is scheduled to open in 2012. That line will halve the travel time between China's leading cities to five hours.
High speed railways now connect many of China's cities, helping to reduce overcrowding on the country's heavily used lines. But the replacement of slower lines with more expensive high-speed trains has prompted complaints from passengers reluctant to pay higher fares, especially on shorter routes.
Though the brand new trains were impeccably clean and the service attentive, Hangzhou's own grimy, unrenovated railway station lacks services and facilities to match.