BEIJING — Huang Wankang and his family took a pleasant holiday trip on new high-speed rail (HSR) line linking two cities in northeast China’s Jilin province.
“I have always wanted to visit Hunchun,” said Huang from Changchun, whose family marveled at the scenery as the train passed Changbai Mountain and Songhua River.
“Northeast China’s most beautiful high-speed rail line” went into operation two weeks ago, cutting the journey from a grueling nine hours to only two hours and eleven minutes.
With an high-speed rail (HSR) network crossing 28 of China’s 31 provincial regions, China is getting smaller despite its geographical vastness. People are no longer discouraged by the distance of faraway destinations.
On Oct 1, the first day of a week of national holidays, a record number of 12.5 million trips were made by train, up 6.9 percent from last year. The number is expected to exceed 100 million for the whole holiday and is largely due to HSR.
“High-speed trains operate like intercity shuttles and have changed people’s perceptions of time and space. Their willingness to travel has grown remarkably,” said professor Sun Zhang of Tongji University.
“Now, I can go back to my hometown in Guizhou province many times a year to see my family,” said Pan Jinkui, a migrant worker in Foshan City’s Sanshui District, in the southern province of Guangdong.
The railway Pan uses opened at the end of last year and connects Guiyang with Guangzhou, the capitals of Guizhou and Guangdong provinces. At a speed of 300 km/h, travel between the two cities has been shortened to four hours from more than 20 hours before.
The Beijing-Guangzhou HSR, which extends for more than 2,000 km and is the longest of its kind in the world, cuts travel time between the two cities to only eight hours.
Bullet trains have made the experience of traveling on Chinese railways — once cramped with pungent odors and long queues for the lavatory — a distant memory.
Bullet trains not only take the tourists to areas of natural beauty but also places with famed delicacies. The Chengdu-Mianyang-Leshan line has given food aficionados great opportunities to taste snacks in cities along the line.
As a vast country, China needed to prioritize railway construction to accommodate the huge mobility needs of tourists, migrant workers and students, said transportation expert Gu Zhongyuan, as “the old, creaking railway system was a bottleneck for economic development.”
While HSR expansion shows no signs of slowing, it has made China smaller and will surely make the country a bigger attraction to foreign tourists.