High-speed rail in China
This article is a travel topic
These are easily the best way of getting around China where available. The trains are clean, comfortable and modern. Seating is comparable to that in an airplane. Most tickets are for assigned seats; no-seat tickets are sometimes sold in limited numbers, but unlike regular Chinese trains, there is never a mad crush with more people sitting in the aisles than in seats. Also unlike other trains, no smoking is allowed, including toilet and between carriages. Prices are reasonable and, on most routes, departures are frequent.
The fast trains are called CRH, China Railway High-speed. At some train stations there is a separate CRH ticket office or even vending machines; at others, CRH tickets are sold at separate counters in the main ticket office. In either case, just look for the “CRH” signs or logo. Note that non-Chinese can no longer use the vending machines; you must go to a counter so they can check your passport.
The speeds attained vary considerably from line to line. The technology used also varies. Nearly all the rolling stock is now manufactured in China, with much of the technology comes from abroad. The Canadian company Bombardier, Japanese Kawasaki, German Siemens and European Alstom have been involved.
See China#Get_around for more general information on rail travel in China.
Types of train and services
The letter prefixes on train numbers indicate the type of train. From fastest to slowest, the fast trains are:
The slower trains (not high-speed train) are:
On most short trip trains, there are just two classes of seats, first class and second class. Both classes are comfortable, though first has noticeably wider seats. Some trains also have a limited number of VIP sightseeing class or private seat cabins. Some long-distance runs have sleeper cabins. Sleeper cabins come in two classes: (1) hard sleeper (three layers of bunk beds), with no doors between the beds and the corridor for privacy or (2) soft sleeper (two layers of bunk beds), with an enclosed room for every four beds.
Taking the fastest train is not always the best way to travel between cities. For example, between Beijing and Xi'an, it might be better to take the overnight T or Z train instead of travelling 6-7 hours on the D train. You save one night hotel bill and one day travelling time.
The price difference for the classes is not enormous. For the Fuzhou-Shanghai D train (six hours and well over 1000 km), for example, second class is 282 and first 330-odd. There is a K train for only 130, but it takes 17 hours on a less direct route and is very crowded. Unless your budget is extremely tight or you cannot cope with six hours in a non-smoking train, the fast train is hugely preferable, easily worth the cost difference.
Some trains have a dining car and nearly all have attendants selling drinks and snacks from carts which they roll up the aisles. Many stations have vendors on the platforms as well. All these tend to be relatively expensive, though, so it is worthwhile bringing your own food and drink.
Ticket purchase and travel
Look up train schedules and tickets on www.huochepiao.net. There are many ticketing agents around the cities. Look for "火车票" signs.
(This article especially needs help to develop the instructions on how to buy tickets and tips for travel.)
Lines in service
As of late 2010, the following lines are in service:
Lots of high-speed lines are still under construction, expect new lines to open every a month or two in the next few years. Lines expected to start service in 2011 include:
When all is complete, Beijing–Shanghai (1305 km) travel time will be cut to under five hours, Beijing–Hong Kong (2250 km) to eight, and Beijing–Ürümqi (3450 km) to twelve.
Even faster — Maglev
Shanghai has a magnetic levitation train out to Pudong airport. Top speed is around 431 km/h (268 mph) during daytime but restricted to 300 km/h (186 mph) in early morning or after 5p.m.
A maglev line between Shanghai and Hangzhou has been planned, but put on hold by the government, due to the populace's fear of radiation.
As the CRH network comes online, many existing lines are becoming freight-only lines so China's overall freight capacity is being improved as well.
Partly because of competition from the fast trains, some of the Chinese domestic airlines are reducing prices, so there are now quite a few bargain flights. See discount airlines in Asia for some possibilities.
China is trying to sell this technology to other nations; they are negotiating with several countries in Latin America to build a network there. They are also negotiating to extend their network across Asia, with high-speed links all the way to Moscow, Singapore, and New Delhi via Burma. This is a slow process; as of mid-2011, only the link to Vientiane is confirmed. See this news coverage.