Faster Bullet Trains in China

I am too slow to react to this news. The 6th national wide train speed increase has been completed. Since I didn’t try the new train, it still didn’t impact my life yet. (The basic rule in this blog is to write about ‘events in Shanghai that affects my life and others. I tend to write only on something that makes an impact to me).

I know there must be some very good side about this speed-up. I will talk about it after I take the train. I just want to start the discussion about how it may change the landscape of city distribution in China.

Luoyang v.s. Zhengzhou

I remember when I was in university, I took train #1658 from Shanghai to Luoyang.

According to the old schedule, it took about 16 hours (16:32 – 08:14+1) to arrive in Zhengzhou, and about 20 (16:32 – 10:17+1) hours to arrive in Luoyang.

After the D-series train appears, the D82/D83 train leave Shanghai at 15:30 and arrives in Zhengzhou at 21:45. The same 998 km trip only costs 6 hour and 15 minutes – about 1/3 of the original time.

The bad thing, though, is the train to Luoyang is the same – or even slower. The gap between Zhengzhou and Luoyang jumped from 2 hour to almost 10 hours.

What does it mean to the second level city – Luoyang? Does it mean all people in Luoyang and other smaller cities should all migrate to bigger cities like Zhengzhou? Anyway, Luoyang is not too small – a city of 6 million population. There are must be many “smaller” city like Luoyang got left far behind during this railway speed up.

Nanjing to Shanghai

A side note: My first trip to Nanjing in 1996 took me 13 hours – the train of 6 hours delayed. 6 hours in 1996 are still OK, compared to the 18 hours to Luoyang at that time (even at that time, Luoyang was 18 hours away, instead of 19). The current D train arrives in Nanjing in just 1 hour and 58 minutes.

High Speed Train or Maglev?

Running at 200 km/h to 250 km/h, the new train on the existing system seems reasonably good compared to the 430 km/h Maglev. What is the fate of the Hangzhou-Shanghai Maglev train? Will it relally start construction or not?

Price?

The D train made a bigger jump in ticket price. For some trains, speed went up by 50%, and price went up by 400% or higher.

Questions after Questions

There must be a lot of questions and impact of the high-speed train in China. What are the impacts? How it further transforms China? There are many questions to be answered. Anyway, the trains have been running on the rail for some time, and it takes longer for people to really get ready to use these high-speed trains and see the impact it does to normal people’s life, or the future of cities in China.

29 thoughts on “Faster Bullet Trains in China

  1. JC

    Hi Jian Shuo,

    I love train travel, specially after reading your blog about Z train report from Beijing to Shanghai. I did train travel in Europe for my honeymoon back in 1999: Leaving from flight SFO to Paris, then took train for the rest of the trip. Paris->Milan->Lousanne->Rome->Barcelona->Paris, then flew back to SFO. We will do again in 2009 to celebrate our 10 years aniversay.

    My family and I are traveling to China(Shanghai and Beijing) for vacation. Arriving PVG from SFO(UA857) on May 11,2007, leaving from PEK for SFO(UA888) on May 26. Planning to take Z14 train from Shanghai to Bejing on May 18, can we check our luggage in Shanghai train station for the train we are taking? So, I don’t have to carry luggages and attending the youngsters(4 and 2 year old) at the same time while borading the train? Is ‘Z’ train still holding up its standard? Thinking about doing day trip to Hangzhou via CHR train, any recommendation for transportation, place to visit and eat in Hangzhou?

    We will be staying at servic apartment ‘Regalia’ in Shanghai, any comment on this place?

    Also, worth to mention that the adult air ticket is only $887.81, purchase on March 7 as multi-city SFO-PVG(outbound) and PEK-SFO(inbound), which is $200+ cheaper as to SFO-PVG-SFO!! Bought thru UAL website directly.

    Cheers,

    JC

  2. Jian Shuo Wang

    This is a typical question: checking-in luggage for the train.

    At Least, I Never Had the Experience to Check-in Luggage on Train

    In my last 20 years of train experience, I never checked-in any luggage. The previous trains didn’t really provide the same kind of service like checking-in luggage. The best (and maybe the only solution) you have is to bring the luggage with you on to the train.

    There ARE luggage service, it is completely separate from the passenger service. If you check-in your luggage, it is like the cargo service that you go to difference location than the railway station, and pay for posting the luggage (or cargo in their term). When the train arrives, you should go to another cargo pickup location – different that the passenger building, and wait for 4 hours (I heard) for the luggage to be cleared.

    In short, in my past experience, there is no such a thing to check-in luggage when you travel with train in China. It is completely different from airline or U.S.

    Again, this is just my previous experience. I don’t take long train trip as much as before, and I don’t have any luggage when I travel. The recent D-series, or Z-series train may offer something different.

    So, bring the luggage with you. The recent Z and D trains are very clear and comfortable, and the entrances of the train is at the same ground level as the platform, so it is pretty easy for you to get on board with luggage. Also, there are plenty of time – 30 minutes – at the origination station, so take your time to take care of the luggage and the kids.

    Safe traveling!

  3. JC

    Jian Shuo,

    Thanks for you input. 30 mins of lead time, should provide me enough time to manuver among luggages and kids.

    Regards,

    JC

  4. XC

    Chinese always carry luggage personally with them when they travel, no matter how big it is. It is possible to check in luggage when taking a train in China (in a way similar to Amtrak service in America), but I think you have to do it 1-2 days before your departure.

    Another warning: you may have trouble fitting your large-size luggage (designed for air travel) on Chinese trains. With Z train, you may have better luck, since you are most likely on a sleeping car. But with the D train, especially for the CRH-2, which operates around Shanghai and from Shanghai to Beijing, there is not much space for that type of luggage. Since it is a copy of Japanese Shinkansen E-2, that kind of luggage space does not exist. (Japanese don’t travel with large luggages, they send them through special luggage carriers.)

  5. Poornima

    I an Indian, visiting China in Sep 2007. Confused whether to take a train or flight from Beijing to Shanghai. And if I choose train whether to take a D train or a Z train. Pl advise.

  6. Jian Shuo Wang

    It depends on budget.

    Flight is best choice, although it is expensive.

    D train is much better than Z train, although Z train is good enough. Again, it is more expensive.

  7. China Mike

    Hi Jian Shuo,

    First of all, I love your site! I remember the first time I discovered it when I was trying to find out information about the Maglev train to the Shanghai airport. Your site was very helpful.

    I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the D Train from Tianjin to Beijing last week. It was very comfortable, and the inside of the train was very different than the other trains. Actually, it looked like the inside of the maglev. It was very clean, all the seat were facing the same way, there were tray tables for each seat, and there was a screen that showed how fast we were going. On the outside of the train, it said that the top speed was 200 Km/hr, but we only got to 163 km/hr. But I noticed that they were building new tracks, so I suspect that they may be for the D train in the future. The trip used to take 1hr 25min, but now it’s 1hr 9min, and I was told that once the new tracks are done, it will only be 40 min. that’s terrific!

  8. Jian Shuo Wang

    @Mike, thanks a lot for sharing the experience of D Train. I didn’t have the opportunity to take the D Train yet. I hope I will give it a try – maybe for the Shanghai – Hangzhou trip. I will report it when I really make it. Also, I hope to quote your comments in my recent blog, so other reader can learn something about the D Train.

  9. Ling

    Hi Jianshuo,

    I’m so glad I found your blog via Google. My husband and I are planning a trip to Shanghai in mid-Sep for 4 days and 3 nights. I hope to squeeze in a day tour to Hangzhou if possible. When will you be trying out the bullet train from Shanghai to Hangzhou? Do you know how long it takes? Is it really much faster than the express trains they have now (about 2 hours?) ?

    By the way, I’m a Singaporean (nationality) Chinese (ethnicity). *:) I can input Chinese text, but I type faster in English, heehee.

  10. Ling

    Hi Jianshuo,

    Thanks for your reply. I just found a web site for China train schedules, http://www.adventurechinatrip.com/train

    The site seems to have the latest updates on train schedules.

    By the way, between 周庄 and 朱家角, which would you recommend for a day trip from Shanghai?

    Thanks once again! *:)

  11. Ling

    Hi Jianshuo,

    It’s me again. Wow, your replies are pretty prompt! Thanks! I did some research on the various nearby attractions, and got myself even more confused now. I just found out that there are also 乌镇 and 同里。

    Have you been to all four places – 周庄, 朱家角, 乌镇 and 同里? Between these four places, does Zhou Zhuang still rank #1?

    Some of the Web articles I read just now say that Zhou Zhuang is too commercialised. But some also say it is well-maintained as a result. Decisions, decisions…

  12. Ling

    Hi Jian Shuo,

    Wow, I’m impressed! I didn’t expect you to reply so quickly, and in such great detail. Thanks once again for your help! Your reply has cleared my confusion. By the way, I just discovered your Chinese blog too. Maybe I’ll pop over there one of these days to leave a comment or two. *;)

    Cheers!

  13. Poornima

    hey jian shuo…

    poornima (the indian travelling in sep), again… have booked a z train… the pictures were way too tempting to let go of the option…

    cheers

    p

  14. Manawar

    Hello Jian Shuo

    Thanks to your site I booked a Z train Wuxi to Beijing this holidays. I note that the ticket from Wuxi is 458 RMB which is quite cheap in comparison to the online booking of approx. $83 US from Shanghai/Beijing. I will purchase a return ticket on the D train, just to experience the difference. I am not sure if this train stops in Wuxi though. Are there any experienced travellers who can advise me.

    This will be our first time in Beijing, can you give me some pointers of what to do and where to stay for the 6 days?

    Thanks for your help and great site.

  15. Rissa

    Hello,

    I am trying to book a train from shanghai to beijing and vice versa and noticed that there are three options in there.

    Home Train Tours Departing from Shanghai SH01: Shanghai -> Beijing train ticket & hotel booking service

    SH01: Shanghai -> Beijing train ticket & hotel booking service

    T and Z trains – Overnight Trains Train From Dep To Arr Duration Hard

    Sleeper

    (6-berth) Soft

    Sleeper

    (4-berth)

    Z6 Shanghai 19:15 Beijing 06:48 11hr 33m

    Z2 Shanghai 19:21 Beijing 06:54 11hr 33m

    Z14 Shanghai 19:32 Beijing 07:00 11hr 33m

    Z22 Shanghai 19:38 Beijing 07:06 11hr 28m

    Z8 Shanghai 19:44 Beijing 07:12 11hr 28m

    T104 Shanghai 20:36 Beijing 09:36 13hr 00m

    T110 Shanghai 20:42 Beijing 09:42 13hr 00m

    High Speed D Train

    – Day Train Train No. From Dep To Arr Duration 1st Class

    Coach 2nd Class

    Coach

    D32 Shanghai 10:50 Beijing 20:49 09h59m

    Trains from Shanghai to Beijing open for sale10 days in advance.

    The trains leaves from Shanghai Railway Station and arrive at Beijing Railway Station.

    Our package includes train ticket and hotel booking assistance service in Beijing or Shanghai Class Price Train Ticket Hotel Booking

    Assistance Service

    Comfort

    Overnight US$83 pp Soft Sleeper

    T or Z train book now!

    Comfort-

    High Speed US$58 2nd class

    D train book now!

    Premium-

    High Speed US$69 pp 1st class

    D train

    What’s the difference between a Comfort High Speed 2nd class D train with that of a 1st class d train?

    Thanks!

    Rissa

  16. Luz Tan

    Hi!

    How reliable is it to buy train tickets thru chinatrain@hotmail.com? We are planning to take the train from Beijing / Xian on Z19 de luxe cabin on 24 Sept. and Xian / Shanghai on T140/T137 soft sleeper 26 Sept. How safe is SOFT SLEEPER considering that you share cabin with strangers?

  17. Arnold D.

    I am going to Shanghai on Feb. 12 ’09 after a few day’s in Shanghai , my Wife and I like to take a Train to Baoding to visit a Sister for a couple of day’s , than go on to Beijing for three day’s to visit a Uncle and Aunt . What Train would or should we be taking , it will have to be a day Train , because I love to get to see the countryside . Than back to Shanghai with the fastest Train or by Plane , don’t know yet ? Appreciate any information on this . Xie-xie ( Xia-xia nong ) Arnold

  18. Jian Shuo Wang

    @Arnold D., I don’t think there are direct train from Shanghai to Baoding – I didn’t get any information from a simple search. It is near Beijng, and maybe you want to fly to Beijing and then go to Baoding, or take a train, and transit somewhere in the middle. Good luck.

  19. zana

    hi ,

    I want to travel 2 person if possible using bullet train from wuxi to beijing. kindly inform me the price. If theres price for normal train also encourage (with bed) or bus ticket. Most of the web in chinese language. Preffered you reply through my email

    Thank you

  20. Alicia

    I was wondering if there is a size limit for bullet trains going from Wuhan to Shanghai. We are going with a party of 7 people and we have 4 luggages which are much bigger than airplane carry on sized, and they weigh around 45-50 pounds. We also have 4 carry on sized luggages and 3 backpacks. Any recommendations for what I should do? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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