The Lunar New year Holiday means cramped trains for millions of Chinese trying to get back home. But that situation is being changed by the advent of high speed railways in the country.
China has embarked on a plan to increase its ra8ilway network by 18 per cent over the next two years with about 3.5 trillion yuan ($556 billion), despite the country boasting the possession of the longest network for bullet trains. The money would be utilized for laying of an additional 150,000 kilometers, or over 93,000 miles.
A large part of that investment would go towards expansion of the high-speed railway network towards the western part of the country which have been earlier described to be very inaccessible.
The Lunar New Year holidays will see nearly 400 million people – larger than the population of the United States, travelling throughout China. With thousands of factories closing down for the week-long holiday, this transit is being called the largest human migration in the world. While some would be returning back to their homes and family, there are also many who a=would utilize the holidays for a leisure trip – either domestically or abroad.
Rail travel in China is on the rise even while in other parts of the world, traveling by rail is being dominated by low priced air travel opportunities. There was a record 10.96 million trips in a single day on bullet trains during the last Spring Festival.
Almost half of the 25,000-kilometer of the high-speed railway network constructed between 2013 and 2017 even though this mode of transport was virtually non-existent in the country even a decade ago. the government plans to increase the size of the network by more than half by 2025 and the introduction of eight main bullet-train lines from the east to west. The authorities in the country also intend to construct another eight main lines traversing north to south.
Initially, this high-speed network was aimed at establishing fast links between the major economic hubs of the country but with this expansion this modern rail network would open up the relatively underdeveloped western part of the country.
“These lines provide ample capacity during peak travel periods such as the Lunar New Year and in other times can stimulate growth in tourism and other businesses in the service sector in western China,” said Sun Zhang, a railway expert at Tongji University in Shanghai. “High-speed rail will help to bridge economic imbalances between China’s east and west.”
The latest of the westward bullet-train lines opened in December, and connects Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, to Xi’an, a city in China’s northwest famed for the Terracotta Warriors.
For example, Xi’an, a city in China’s northwest was connected by high-speed rail with Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province by a westward bullet train as late as December of 2017. The top speed for a train on the high-speed network is about 250 kilometers per hour and the price of a one-way ticket begins at 263 yuan ($42) which is almost half of the price of a flight ticket one-way between the cities.
Starting in February, it is estimated that about 390 million rail trips would be made by Chinese people for this year’s Spring Festival in the 40 days. This is more than by 8.8 per cent compared to rail travels a year ago in the same period and nearly double of the 200 million trips conducted in 2010.
(Adapted from Bloomberg.com)