Monday, August 15, 2011

SHANGHAI: The Chinese Bullet Train Experience

My father specifically asked me not to ride the bullet train. When my mother forbids me to do something, I usually dismiss it as unfounded paranoia intensified by maternal instincts. On the contrary, when my father forbids me to do something, I normally heed the advice because it would likely be based on facts, this time referring to that recent accident in Hangzhou where one car of a high speed train got hit by lightning resulting in an accident with a death toll of 30+. Sorry Pa, the woman at the counter didn't really give me a choice. She just asked for the hour of departure and said "555 yuan" with a conclusive tone, and neither the slower overnight trains nor any of the cheap Shanghai - Beijing flights would get me to Beijing early enough for my Erlian flight the next day. This just had to happen.

These trains just started operating in June, if I'm not mistaken. The average speed is around 300 km/hour, with less than ten stops from Shanghai to Beijing. The normal 13 hour trip has been reduced to just five and a half. That, in itself, is amazing. If you factor in check-in and security procedures at airports, not to mention their considerable distance from the city center, you'll realize that travel by rail with these new high speed trains are just as competitive and even more comfortable.

The stops I remember are Nanjing (after the first hour and a half including the two initial stops), Xuzhou, and Tianjin which marks the last half hour of the journey en route to the terminus Beijing South. Beijing South is well integrated to the rest of the Beijing metro system, which is really very cheap. 2 yuan for ten stops! The price is comparative to Metro Manila's MRT fares!

The car is similar in orientation to a plane's cabin. There is an overhead compartment but it does not have a cover. The seats could be reclined to some extent. There are cabin crews selling food and drinks. The rows to the left have three seats while those to the right have two. First class has two seats for each side of the row, but legroom is just the same. The only added benefit is the wider arm rest, which in my opinion, is not worth it. The business class seats  have three seats per row that could be reclined to a total lying position and  has added features like mini LCD monitors and stuff.

The trains depart from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, which is just next to the two Shanghai Hongqiao Airport Terminal stops. There are automated machines dispensing tickets, although not for all destinations. Tickets run out pretty fast so try to purchase them in advance, either online (I don't know how) or at the station itself like I did. The security check area could get pretty crowded especially during rush hour so make sure you allot enough time for that. The trains leave on time. This is serious, they really won't wait for you.

BEIJING: The Chinese Bullet Train Experience

2 creature/s gave a damn:

Anonymous said...

Wow, I want to experience riding a bullet train as well. I only had a limited time in China so I wasn't able to try that out. :|

ihcahieh said...

@jasetiojanco - I think your Mandarin studies will bring you back to China eventually. I guess it is where one should really ride a bullet train, cheaper than the one in Japan, which I think is absurdly expensive, lol. :)

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