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Luxury seats coming out of bullet trains

Updated: 2011-04-21 08:23

By Tan Zongyang and Wu Yiyao (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Luxury seats will be missing from many of the fast trains that will soon travel on a high-speed railway running from Beijing to Shanghai, giving passengers more room and making the ride cheaper, railway sources were quoted as saying.

Luxury seats coming out of bullet trains

Beijing Daily quoted an anonymous source from the railway sector on Wednesday as saying that luxury seats are being removed from most of the bullet trains. The trains are to begin running on the high-speed railway in June.

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Previous reports had said that bullet trains, which will race along a 1,318-km-long railway, will be equipped with seats and other accommodations meant to ensure business travelers can travel in luxury, comfort and privacy.

As planned, the trains will contain cars used to cater to honored guests, or VIPs, as well as private cabins with seats that can be made into flat beds.

The inclusion of luxury seats similar to the first-class seats found on airplanes was once proposed as a means of drawing affluent travelers away from the airlines that fly between the country's top two metropolises.

But not all are attracted by the idea of the accommodations. Rather than luxury, many people have been clamoring for more affordable public transport.

Early this year, fast trains linking Shanghai and Chengdu in Sichuan province started to sell tickets giving travelers a berth in a luxurious sleeper car. The price of a single trip in the car came to 2,330 yuan ($357), a cost that prompted complaints of extravagance.

As a result, some of the luxury sleeping cars were removed in March. Regular seats were installed in their place, giving more passengers a cheaper ride.

Zhao Jian, a transport professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, praised the decision to respond to market demands by removing luxury seats from many of the trains that will travel the new railway between Beijing and Shanghai.

"The luxury cars on many of the existing high-speed lines have low occupancy rates, which is a huge waste," he said.

Without luxury seats, the trains will transport more passengers, leading to higher revenues from ticket sales, he said.

The publicity department with the Ministry of Railways declined to comment on the news on Wednesday. For his part, the new railway minister, Sheng Guangzu, has shown resolve to make the high-speed railway service more "satisfactory to the people".

He said the high-speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai will operate at a slower maximum speed than first planned - at 300 kilometers an hour, giving passengers a safer and more affordable ride.

To further save money, passengers can also choose to ride in a train that has a maximum speed of 250 km/h.

The string of changes, even though they will make trains run slower, has been well received by travelers.

"Although the trains will run a little bit slower, flights can be severely delayed," said Ge Bozhi, a 42-year-old businessman from Shanghai.

"So I will definitely take the train as soon as it starts to run."

Others thought the railway department should do more.

Yang Jianjun, a 35-year-old consultant, said he hoped the trains can be improved in ways needed to attract those who usually travel by air. The food on some high-speed trains, for instance, could certainly be made better, he said.

"Travelers expect catering and services that match the reputation of the trains," he said.


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