Luxury Trains Run Smoothly

Despite intensified competition from upgraded railway services, airlines and road transportation companies remain optimistic about business prospects on the Shanghai-Beijing route.

A week ago, railway authorities of the two cities for the first time added two luxury trains to their services to relieve growing demand on China's busiest railway route.

Xu Mengfei, a marketing official with Shanghai Airlines, which operates six daily flights between Shanghai and Beijing, however, said the upgraded train services have not affected the carrier's passenger volume on the route so far.

"Our average load factor remains 70 percent as before," she said.

Industry analysts noted that for about 70 percent of passengers flying between the two cities for business purposes, time is of the essence.

It also has been business as usual at the nation's third-largest carrier, China Eastern Airlines.

The Shanghai-based carrier, which operates more than 20 daily flights between the city and Beijing, recently upgraded its fleet on the route, replacing a mix of aircraft with new and more comfortable Airbus A300 and Airbus A320 jets.

Meanwhile, long-distance road transportation companies said they have encountered a slight drop in passenger volumes, but will continue to carry out their development plans.

"Our plan to add six daily services by the end of this year won't be changed," said Liu Degong, general manager of Xinguoxian (Shanghai) Passenger Transport Co. "There is still enough room for us to expand. Each of our coaches offers only about 30 seats or beds, so it carries far fewer passengers than a train."

At present, Xinguoxian, which deploys all-bed and regular-seat coaches on the route, is the only company providing passenger transportation along the Beijing-Shanghai Expressway - the main highway between the two cities.

On average, it sells out about 60 percent of the beds on its all-bed coaches, compared with a lower proportion on regular-seat coaches.

Xinguoxian, which runs a fleet of 20 coaches, offers four daily services from Shanghai to Beijing. A one-way journey along the 1,263-kilometer expressway takes 14 to 15 hours, and the ticket price for a bed on its coach is 311 yuan (US$37).

Since October 21, the express railway services to Beijing from Shanghai have doubled to four times a day. The ticket prices for a train bed range from 300 yuan to 900 yuan.

According to Shanghai Railway Administration, the new luxury train services were enthusiastically welcomed by passengers, with an average 98 percent of seats and beds on a train sold out in the past week.

(eastday 10/30/2001)

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