Construction on Qinghuangdao-Shenyang Passenger Railway, China’s first high speed rail – defined in the country as systems of rolling stock which regularly operate at or above 200km/hour – began in 1999. Since then the total length of high speed rail tracks increased to almost 10,000km by the end of 2011.

High Speed Rail Development Through 2020
China has plans to build and is in the process of building 17,000km of high speed railroad for passenger transport through 2015. By the end of 2012, the nation plans to run a high speed rail network of 42 lines with a total length of 13,000km, including four major east-west line and four major north-south lines. By the end of 2020, the length is expected to hit 50,000km.

Investment in High Speed Rail
Total investment in China’s railroads will add up to RMB3.5 trillion between 2011 and 2015, up from the RMB2.2 trillion made during the previous five-year period, according to the latest plan on railway development. Of the RMB3.5 trillion, RMB1.88 trillion are expected to be invested in high speed rail lines. Costs for building 1km of high speed rail in China currently range between RMB130 million and RMB200 million.

High Speed Rail Passenger Traffic
China’s high speed rail ridership accounted for 20% of total rail passenger traffic, Wang Zhiguo, deputy minister of the Ministry of Railways, said at a news conference in January 2011. Total rail passenger traffic exceeded 1.86 billion people in 2011, according to the Ministry of Railways.

Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Rail
The 1,318km Beijing-Shanghai high speed rail line – the most prominent high speed rail project – began construction in April 2008 and was inaugurated in June 2011. Trains can run at up to 350km/hour on the Beijing-Shanghai line, which cost RMB221 billion. It has 23 stops, going through three provincial municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai) and four provinces (Hebei, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu). The line transported 52.6 million passengers in the first year of operation.

Beijing-Guangzhou High Speed Rail
The 2,298km line linking Beijing and Guangzhou through six provinces was inaugurated in December 2012 as one of the major four north-south routes. Trains hurtling along the track at up to 300km/hour more than halves the traveling time to less than 10 hours. The project cost as much as RMB400 billion and analysts say it will take at least 15 years to recoup the cost.

High Speed Rail Train Prices
The cheapest seat for the Beijing-Shanghai high speed line is RMB555 (5 to 5.5 hours), compared to RMB410 for power car trains (8 to 9.5 hours) and RMB179 for regular trains (15 hours; this service is very rare). The cheapest seat for the Beijing-Guangzhou high speed line is RMB865 (8 to 9.5 hours), compared to RMB253 for regular trains (20.5 to 22 hours).

High Speed Rail Profitability
Most of China’s high speed rail lines are operating in the red. However, the Shanghai-Nanjing and Shanghai-Hangzhou high speed rail lines reported profits in 2011, according to an article published in May 2012 by the 21st Century Business Herald. The Shanghai-Nanjing line posted RMB3.57 billion in revenues and RMB380 million in net profits for 2011, during which it served 60 million passengers, or 164,000 passengers per day. The Shanghai-Hangzhou line posted RMB1.54 billion in revenues and RMB5.7 million in net profits in 2011, during which it served 30 million passengers, or 82,000 passengers per day. As of November 20 2012, the Shanghai-Nanjing high speed service runs 411 trains every day (210 trains from Shanghai to Nanjing, 201 trains from Nanjing to Shanghai), and the Shanghai-Hangzhou high speed service runs 177 trains every day (128 from Shanghai to Hangzhou, 49 trains from Hangzhou to Shanghai).

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