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'Everything Ready' for Faster Trains
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The Ministry of Railways said yesterday that everything, including a new emergency system, is in place for Wednesday's speedup.

As trains on trunk rail lines prepare to up their top speeds from 200 to 250 kph, the ministry has taken steps to help ease concerns about safety.

Vice-Minister Hu Yadong said at a news conference that the emergency plan considered all potential situations suggested by experts.

"At present, emergency rescue facilities are in place, and we have already carried out drills on every emergency plan," he said. 

The ministry created an inspection system that monitors the status of trains and tracks around the clock. In addition, attention will be paid to the latest weather conditions in speedup sections, he said.

Weather conditions became a concern after strong winds knocked a passenger train off its tracks in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in February, causing three deaths and several injuries.

The vice-minister said that the speedup will be "safe and reliable" given the extensive preparations and tests.

Since 2004, the ministry spent 29.6 billion yuan (US$3.83 billion) to ensure high-speed trains would run at 200 kph and above along 6,003 kilometers of tracks.

It plans to put 514 bullet trains into use this year. The first batch of 280 will come on line next week while others will be introduced on July 1 and October 1.

The bullet trains will cut travel time greatly. For example, a trip between Shanghai and Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province, will be cut in half to five hours.

New ticketing system

Routes using bullet trains will be identified with the letter D to separate them from other types of rail services. Tickets go on sale today.

At present, all bullet trains are equipped with soft chairs but no sleepers. There are two classes of ticket: first grade and second grade.

According to the new railway chart, the price of a first-grade ticket will be higher than that of a soft sleeper on current trains that run on the same routes.

For example, passengers pay 499 yuan for a soft sleeper on a non-stop fast train between Beijing and Shanghai. But the bullet train will cost 543 yuan for a first-grade ticket and 453 yuan for a second-grade ticket on the same route.

The journey time will be cut from 12 hours to 10.

Su Shunhu, who is in charge of operations and marketing for the bullet trains, said the ministry was developing an automatic ticket selling and checking system. The new system will offer discounts on tickets.

"We also plan to introduce a system that allows people to buy tickets over the telephone or via our website," he said.

(China Daily April 13, 2007)

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