Hundreds of thousands of workers commuting to Beijing from a town in neighboring Hebei province had their travel time reduced significantly on Jan 12 with the opening of a new bullet train service.
Three bullet trains are running between the capital and Yanjiao during the morning and evening rush hours, Beijing Railway Bureau said.
The trains complete the trip between Beijing and Yanjiao in half an hour.
The earliest train leaves Yanjiao at 6:46 am, arriving at Beijing Railway Station at 7:17 am, with The other two trains running between the two stations in the evening.
Previously, few trains ran between Yanjiao and Beijing, and they operated outside rush hours.
Yanjiao, about 35 km east off the capital, is home to more than half a million people, with most of them working in Beijing.
Many of them choose to live in the town because it is close to the capital and has much lower housing prices. However, this has led to notorious rush-hour traffic congestion on the road linking the two places.
Zhou Hongyu, who lives in Yanjiao and works in Beijing, said her trip to work every day had been an ordeal. She had to fight her way onto a bus that usually took one hour to reach downtown Beijing. She then had to transfer to the subway to get to her office.
“The bus was extremely crowded, and I could barely get on it,” she said.
On the morning of Jan 12, Zhou took the first bullet train leaving Yanjiao for Beijing, almost halving the daily two-hour commute to the office, she said.
But some commuters complained about fares on the new trains.
Veteran traveler Wu Zejian said, “A second-class seat on the bullet train costs about 10 yuan ($1.60), nearly double the cost of taking the bus.”
Sun Yongtang, a Beijing Railway Bureau official, said the new service has been well received and tickets nearly sold out on Jan 12.
A number of high-speed train services aimed at commuters have been launched in recent years between large cities and neighboring areas.
For example, Langfang, a city in Hebei province 60 km from Beijing, has been linked to the capital by high-speed trains since 2011, reducing the traveling time to 21 minutes. Cities near Shanghai and Guangzhou have also been linked by high-speed railways.
Ji Jialun, a transportation professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, said large Chinese cities can learn about building diversified transportation systems from their counterparts in developed countries.
“For example, in Paris, the railways, light rail system and subway are integrated, allowing passengers to transfer conveniently between different forms of transportation,” he said.
Area: 108 square km
Location: About 35 km from Tian’anmen Square
Travel time to Beijing: 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on traffic
Housing prices: about 10,000 yuan per square meter, compared with more than 25,000 yuan per square meter in Beijing last year