Often quicker than flying to get from A to B, and a symbol of China’s modernisation and investment in recent years, I was excited to experience trips aboard the famous bullet trains linking China’s urban areas, this time I visited in September 2015.
The rail network cuts across China in extraordinarily straight lines, with the tracks raised up on straight concrete platforms 20 metres in the air, a very contemporary, almost futuristic sight that stands out in the rural areas, and cuts through the urban areas at the 8th floor of buildings reminiscent of a scene from the futuristic film: “Blade Runner”.
The trains travel at speeds of up to 300km per hour, with advertising and entertainment screens in each carriage, complementary water and often a food and refreshments bar. The silent and comfortable journey is not punctuated by any shakes or juddering from the tracks. The price too, is approximately the equivalent of £6 per 200km travelled for this efficient and rarely late form of transport. That would be like paying about £2.50 from Opportunity China’s Southampton office to London Waterloo, and arriving in 20 minutes- a quarter of the usual 80 minutes!
My journey today is from Tongling, a town in Anhui province, to Hefei, the provincial capital. The station resembles more of an airport terminal than a train station, with security checks and a waiting room before boarding, and I collect my ticket with passport in hand for identity check purposes. Boarding is efficient and controlled by officials and transport police, and the trains are on time, ascending up to the platform and raised tracks. The trains glide, and don’t make much noise at all, and when boarding and then accelerating even up to huge speeds, they are virtually silent!
Anhui is filled with lowland farmland, and it whizzes by this landscape as we get up to 296km per hour. I am travelling on Chinese national day, the beginning of a 7 day holiday and celebration of the People’s republic of China, so it is a good job I booked a ticket. Similar to a UK bank holiday, it is a popular time to travel, but with millions rather than thousands moving across the country, it is so much more important that China’s efficient transport systems are up to the challenge. For longer journeys between larger cities, for example the popular route between Beijing and Shanghai, this is a fantastic way to travel.