Traveling from Guiyang, the capital of Southwest China’s mountainous Guizhou province, to Guangzhou used to involve a 20-hour train ride.
However, the situation changed dramatically as the province became the newest member of China’s high-speed railway family.
After six years of construction, the Guiyang-Guangzhou high-speed railway started running on Dec 26, 2014.
The route is the first high-speed railway to connect the southwest area to other regions and is expected to bring the poverty-stricken province into a new era.
The railway shortens travel time from Guiyang to Guangzhou from 20 hours to about five hours.
Zhang Jianbo, chairman of Guiyang-Guangzhou Railway Co Ltd, said the new line was much straighter than the old one so was shortened to 857 kilometers.
“The majority of Guizhou’s geographical landscape is karst landscape. There are no flatlands but only mountains and hills, which brought many challenges to the construction process,” he added.
In recent years, Guizhou has strived to strengthen cooperation and joint development with nearby regions and the railway is expected to bring more opportunities for this.
“We must take the opportunities from the rapid development of transportation and help more Guizhou people leave the mountainous areas to work and travel to the outside world,” said Zhao Kezhi, the Party chief of Guizhou, during the provincial economic working conference in December.
The province made breakthroughs in the transportation sector, which reduced logistics costs for enterprises and investors.
Several enterprises pre-empted the development prospects for Guizhou. Suning.com, one of the largest online shopping sites in China, started cooperating with Guiyang’s local government to build a logistics center.
“We are optimistic about the city’s future as the railway economy will greatly help the business, especially in logistics,” said Jiang Wanqian, assistant general manager of Suning. He added that more shops were also scheduled to open in the province.
For many travelers Guizhou’s stunning natural scenery, fascinating customs and ethnic minorities make it an ideal travel destination.
However, the lack of convenient transport to date means the province’s tourism industry has struggled.
To attract more visitors Guizhou heavily invested in infrastructure and transport, including the high-speed railway, which is expected to boost the tourism industry.
“Time spent traveling to a destination on a trip is a huge factor in attracting people to visit. Now people from Guangzhou can spend their day enjoying sightseeing or hiking in the mountains instead of sitting on a train for 20 hours. That’s the benefit the high-speed railway brings to us,” said Fu Yingchun, director of Guizhou’s tourism bureau.
Fu said Guizhou joined Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and Guangdong province to establish a joint tourism cooperation, which offers benefits from travel agencies from other regions, such as price discounts and prior planning assistance.
“You can have dim sum in the morning in Guangzhou and dance with Miao people at noon in their traditional village here, within only a few hours. That is why we are encouraging more people to give Guizhou a try,” Fu said.
Stepping out the mountainous province
As well as attracting investors and visitors, the high-speed railway also offers people and products the chance to leave the province.
Zhang Guanghui, a 45-yearold tea farmer in Guizhou’s Pingyang Village, spent the past three months replacing an old mud road with a cement path.
“As soon as the railway was operational, we headed straight to the station and invited tea merchants to our plantation,” he said.
Despite the good quality of the region’s tea, the lack of publicity and access has always dampened sales outside the province.
“Abundant energy and mineral resources, a marvelous ecological environment and unique ethnic culture are the gems of Guizhou in Southwest China. The opening of the high-speed railway will help domestic and foreign investors reach the resources in the province and help local investors and travelers ‘go global’,” said Chen Min’er, the governor of Guizhou during a media interview in 2014.
The Changsha to Guiyang section of the high-speed railway line is expected to open this year, which will extend the rail line to 3,000 km.
The vehicle expressway is also expected to extend to 5,100 km in the near future, which means Guizhou’s economy will benefit even more from convenient transport.
Rapid economic, tourism growth
The number of inward and outward airline passengers to Guizhou hit 14 million last year and the growth rate took the lead in China.
Investment in fixed asset showed a 23.6 percent year-on-year growth, which outperformed other provinces in the country.
The rate of urbanization in Guizhou climbed to 40.01 percent last year, also taking the lead in China in terms of its growth. Guizhou is marching forward to become the center of an economic and transport corridor by optimizing its spatial arrangement and developing industrial zones, urban functional zones and trading logistic bases with local characteristics.