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Bullet Train Gets Off to Slow Start
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Tickets for the country's new bullet train services went on sale at the weekend, but there was nothing high-speed about the public's response.

Local media reported that just a handful of ticket collecting hobbyists, media workers and youngsters attracted by the train's high speed had bought advance tickets for the new service, which is identified by the letter D.

The new trains come into service on Wednesday.

Railway officials, however, said that the indifferent market reaction was consistent with passengers' normal buying habits.

"Bullet trains are used on intercity routes for journeys that generally take less than three hours. When passengers are traveling such short distances, they seldom buy their tickets in advance," an official said.

But that's unlikely to be the sole reason for the slow ticket sales. There is also the issue of price.

While bullet trains can travel at up to 250 kph and cut journey times by an average of 20-30 percent, the high-speed experience is also high-priced.

A seat on a bullet train costs about twice as much as one on the previous fastest service, which is identified with the letter T or Z.

For example, a passenger traveling from Beijing to Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province, would pay a minimum of 213 yuan (US$27.50) for the five-hour journey by bullet train. A soft-seat ticket for a T-type service, however, would cost just 94 yuan but take 90 minutes longer.

However, insiders said people's attitudes will change once the May 1 holiday arrives. Train tickets are hard to find during the Golden Week break, as people head off on holiday.

(China Daily April 16, 2007)

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