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National Railway Picks up Steam

China launched its largest scale railway speed increase Sunday, with the speeds of its major lines raised to 160 kilometers per hour, cutting the travel time between Beijing and Shanghai, the two largest cities in China, to a half day.

Running from Beijing to Shanghai, the fastest direct express train only takes 11 hours and 58 minutes, two hours less than the former 14 hours, said an official with the Chinese Ministry of Railways.


Amid the speed increase, three new pairs of direct express train have been added to the Beijing-Shanghai route, with the total direct express trains increased to eight pairs. It is believed that the transport pressure on the busiest Chinese railway line will be alleviated, said the official.


The Ministry of Railways added a total of 19 pairs of new direct express trains during this round of speed acceleration, running non-stop from Beijing to some major cities like Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Yangzhou, Nanjing, Hefei, Harbin, Changchun, Changsha, Wuchang, Hankou, Xi'an and from Tianjin to Shanghai.


The ministry also readjusted the national railway schedule, increasing the number of night trains so as to bring more convenience to passengers. The number of tourist trains was also increased to meet the demand of the national tourism market.


The ministry said after the speed increase, China has basically established three "express railway circles," respectively centered around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.


Passengers from cities about 500 kilometers away can travel to the three centers by rail on a morning to evening train, those about 1,200 to 1,500 kilometers away can travel to the three centers from the evening to the morning of the next day, and those about 2,000 and 2,500 kilometers away can arrive within 24 hours.


It is China's fifth railway speed acceleration, with the former four times respectively launched in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001.


The ministry said China has set the timetable for the sixth railway speed increase, which will be launched next year with its major lines running at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour.


(Xinhua News Agency April 19, 2004)

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