High-speed rail links Zhengzhou and Wuhan
Updated: 2012-09-29 01:38
By Tan Zongyang (China Daily)
Bullet trains cut travel time between the two cities to less than two hours
The first high-speed train between Zhengzhou and Wuhan starts running on Sept 28. [Photo/Xinhua]
A new high-speed railway, which connects the capital cities of Henan and Hubei provinces in Central China, was put into service on Friday, creating a new north-south corridor in the national high-speed rail grid.
The first pair of bullet trains started to run on the Zhengzhou-Wuhan line at 9 am on Friday.
The new line decreases the travel time between the two cities to two hours, down from four and a half hours.
Construction began on the 536 km line, with a total investment of 57 billion yuan ($9 billion), in 2008, with a top designed speed of 350 kilometers per hour.
For now, the new line will carry 24 pairs of trains every day, with a speed limit of 300 km/h, railway authorities said.
The line is a major part of the 2,300-km Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed railway, China’s longest high-speed line in planning, which is expected to open by the end of the year.
China slowed progress of high-speed railway construction after a deadly train crash in East China’s Wenzhou in July 2011, but high-speed railways are still growing to meet the huge market demand. Authorities plan to build more than 16,000 km of high-speed lines by 2020.
Zhang Junbang, head of the Zhengzhou Railway Bureau, said at the line’s opening ceremony that the new line is connected with many existing high-speed lines, creating a larger fast-track network in the region with great social and economic benefits.
The line, which extends the Wuhan-Guangzhou line to the north, links many major railway hubs, such as Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Xi’an, Guangzhou and Nanjing, on a grid connected by high-speed railways.
"The line will increase passenger flows to stimulate local economic development, which will help build inland Central China as an economic highland and serve the national strategy of going west," Zhang said.
"Taking the high-speed train is a convenient and comfortable experience," said Robert Speed, a consultant with the World Wide Fund for Nature, who was among the first group of passengers on the line.
He said he prefers the train over flying from Zhengzhou to Wuhan because the trip is faster and cheaper.
"The high-speed train is driven by electricity, so it is also a more eco-friendly travel way for mass transportation," he said.
Kang Qiang, a businessman from Zhengzhou who frequently travels between the city and Wuhan, said the new line will be his first choice in the future.
"On the train I don’t have to turn off my cell phone, and the seat provides a power supply that allows me to use my laptop," he said.
"Also, trains are more punctual in departure and arrival than planes," he added.
The new line will also help relieve pressure on the railway network for the National Day holiday travel peak, which starts on Sunday.
The Zhengzhou Railway Bureau said in a statement that every effort has been made to ensure safe travel on the new line, which has set high standards on its building process, operational system and overhaul.
"Drivers are a crucial part to guarantee our bullet trains race safely on track," the bureau said.
According to the statement, high-speed train drivers were selected from among thousands of drivers of regular trains, who can get a license with safe a driving record of no less than 500,000 km on rails.
Eligible candidates then have to pass exams and get one month of intensive training.
In addition, the bureau said every night, workers will spend at least four hours inspecting the track and related facilities for maintenance. A pair of trains without passengers will take a test run in the early morning to confirm road safety.
The line is one more piece of the jigsaw that is China’s grid-shaped high-speed railway network, which underlines Wuhan, a port city on the Yangtze River, as an important traffic hub, experts said.
Hu Runzhou, vice-president of the Wuhan Institute of Traffic Engineering and a railway expert, believes the city’s unique location advantages will be further recognized, as Wuhan is now crisscrossed by several high-speed railways.
So far, travelers to Wuhan have been able to take bullet trains to Guangdong province’s Guangzhou on the south, Anhui province’s Hefei on the east, and Yichang, Hubei province.
And the new railway path will link the city to the north region — even to Beijing by the end of the year — making Wuhan the meeting point of the planned north-south Beijing-Guangzhou line and the east-west Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu line, Hu said.