World's Longest High-Speed Rail Line Makes Debut

World's Longest High-Speed Rail Line Makes Debut

The world's longest high-speed rail line, which spans over half of China, began operating at the end of last year, further cementing the country's high-speed railway development ambitions. The 2,298-kilometer railway connects Beijing in the north to Guangzhou in the south, and it more than halves the travel time between the two cities. Trains running on the new high-speed line hit 300 kilometer per hour, cutting the total journey time by more than 12 hours. The major stops along the way between China's capital and Guangzhou in the south will include provincial capitals Shijiazhuang, Wuhan and Changsha. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, citing the Ministry of Railways, more than 150 pairs of high-speed trains will run on the new line every day.

China has massive resources and considerable prestige invested in its showcase high-speed railways program. But it has in recent months faced high-profile problems: part of a line collapsed in central China after heavy rains in March, while a bullet train crash in the summer of 2011 killed 40 people. The former railway minister, who spearheaded the bullet train's construction, and the ministry's chief engineer, were detained in an unrelated corruption investigation months before the crash.

With the opening of the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed line, China now has more than 9.3 thousand kilometer of high-speed railway in operation. The new line is one of four north-south lines expected to serve as the country's high-speed railway backbone, which also features four east-west lines. According to the 12th five-year plan for railway development, by 2015, China will have around 120 thousand kilometer of railway in operation, including 18 thousand kilometer of high-speed railway and an express railway network of 40 thousand kilometer, which allows speeds of over 160 kilometer per hour. Preparations for a new high-speed line linking the central Chinese cities of Zhengzhou and Xuzhou are underway. The line will intersect the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed rail line and the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line, which started operations on June 30 last year.