"Since the launch of the high-speed service, Beijing and Tianjin saw the fastest economic growth among other cities across the country, and Tianjin posted a 35 percent growth in tourism," he said.
China stepped up its railway-development program last year in the wake of the global financial crisis, promising to increase the passenger network to 12,000 kilometers by 2020. High-speed rail service is part of that effort.
The new line will slash travel time between Wuhan and Guangzhou from 10 hours to less than three hours, with an average speed of 350 kilometers per hour.
A first-class ticket for the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed train costs 780 yuan ($115), and a second-class ticket costs 490 yuan ($71). Currently, regular trains between the two cities offer ticket prices ranging from 56 to 289 yuan.
The high price of the new line has stoked heated debate among passengers worried that the high-speed service will only be accessible to privileged commuters or will be transformed into a "government train" used by officials for business trips and private travel.
"It's unbelievable that the first-class ticket is even higher than the airplane ticket at slack seasons. It seems like an exclusive service for the rich or government officials," Kuang Lili, a Hunan native working in Guangzhou, told the Global Times Wednesday.
The controversy worsened when it was announced that several trains traveling between Wuhan and Guangzhou, Wuhan and Shenzhen, and Wuhan and Changsha may cease operations after the high-speed service begins, according to the Guangzhou Railway Group.
"We are forced to buy expensive tickets," a migrant worker surnamed Wang, who works in Guangzhou, told the Global Times Wednesday.