China’s latest railway marvel rolled out of Beijing at 8.56 am on Monday and reached Shanghai precisely four hours and 48 minutes later. The G1 sped slower than its top speed of 380 kmph but it still shrank by half the journey between the political and financial centres of China.
“Our dream come true,’’ Liang Shuling, a director of the Changchun Railway Corporation, told HT from his second-class window seat as the train passed farms ploughed by horses.
The 1,318 km Beijing-Shanghai line opens on July 1, a year ahead of schedule, on the 90th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party. A first-class ticket on the train will cost more than an airline ticket. This is almost the same distance as Delhi to Jamshedpur, Bihar, a trip that presently takes 19 hours by Indian Railways.
On Monday, the media was invited to travel ticket-less and interact with the attendants who practised eight-teeth smiles and thirty-something engineers who design the world’s largest high-speed railroad expansion happening in China.
“Safety was the biggest challenge,’’ said Li Minggao, manager of the common technology department as we passed Suzhou. “We are proud and happy. But we can’t be relieved. We have to guarantee safety and reliability.’’
China’s railway minister became the highest-level official in five years to be investigated for corruption earlier this year. The 33-billion dollar Beijing-Shanghai line is embroiled in embezzlement scandals. The new railway minister has vowed to make safety and affordability the focus of the railway’s future as high-speed lines — already the world's longest — are laid for a target 120,000 km in five years.
So the Beijing-Shanghai line, which will have 63 pairs of trains every day, cruised at a safer 300 kmph. Several trains on this line will move at 250 kmph and cover the journey in seven hours. The engineers said their next projects were for 250 kmph trains.