In our 15 days of touring across China we have traveled by every means of transportation possible: from domestic flights, high-speed trains, slow regional trains, buses, cable cars, fast elevators, boats, electric scooters or bikes, but by far the best experience, was traveling by the fastest train in China from Beijing to Shanghai.
In 2017, China keeps the world’s record for the largest high-speed rail (HSR) network with a length totaling over 22,000 km, including 12,500 km of rail routes allowing trains at a speed above 250 km/h and there is a plan to enlarge to 30,000 km by 2020 and 38,000 km by 2025 and no country in the world does infrastructure development like China. We saw it with our own eyes. The world’s longest HSR line, Beijing-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, will extend with 2,298 km and is expected to run to Hong Kong in 2018.
Currently, only 16 countries and regions worldwide have bullet trains running on their land, including China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, and United Kingdom. The total length has reached 30,000 km and the speed varies from 200 km/h to 350 km/h.
In China, high-speed trains can reach 300 km/h, or a top speed of 350 km/h. Ufff!!! It was a must to try while in China. About 2,600 pairs of high-speed trains numbered by G, D or C run daily connecting over 200 cities in China and covering 32 of the country’s 34 provinces.
Beijing-Shanghai G high-speed trains link the two megacities 1,318 km away in just 4.5 hours with an average speed of 300km/h. And this was our train for the ride. Beijing–Shanghai Train holds the record for the fastest unmodified electric wheeled train, at the highest speed of 487 km/h set in 2010 while not in commercial use. During our trip, they use the maximum speed of 308 km/h, so they didn’t push it. Now the speed is limited by the government not by the limits of the technology.
Traveling independently you will have to arrange everything by yourself, including the transportation for the 15 days around China. We travel as a group of 10 people and I have to admit that all the logistics, including the train ticket, was arranged by our friends from Travel Ship (travelship.ro). We booked via an agent all the train tickets for 15 days, accordingly to our itinerary and he handled everything for us, including finding the tickets ready for us in our hotel in Beijing. It was easier like this without more bureaucracy involved and loss of time.
Almost all Beijing-Shanghai trains now use Beijing South Station (BeijingNan), 6km southwest of central Beijing. Our journey began at Beijing Nan South Train Station, which not only was immaculately clean but also huge. Airport-style with security check and everything. Departures board quickly separating the masses into a dozen spacious waiting rooms serving one or two trains at a time. So you will have to allow time to arrive, get yourself familiar with the gates and then takes at least 10 to 15 minutes.
Two slightly different trains operate the high-speed G-category trains between Beijing and Shanghai, the Chinese-designed CRH380A and the German-designed CRH380B. They have 3 classes:
-2nd class seats are arranged 2+3 across the coach. Perfectly OK if you’re on a budget.
-1st class seats are far more spacious and are arranged 2+2 across the coach. There is a power socket for each pair of seats, in the seat base.
-Business class seats are arranged 1+2 across the coach. The business class seats recline electrically and become a flatbed at the touch of a button. Business class is expensive, even by western standards. There’s a VIP lounge for business class passengers at Beijing South & Shanghai Hongqiao.
The train has a Buffet with counter & tables, open to all passengers, selling snacks, beer, soft drinks… but be careful, you might not like what they have to offer.
Every coach has a western-style toilet at one end and an eastern-style squat toilet at the other, a bathroom with three sinks for washing and tooth brushing, and a hot-water tap to fill your jug with tea or noodles.
Facilities on these bullets, as they are called, are of high standard, similar to those on an airplane. The seats can be rotated towards the moving direction; the seatback can be adjusted to a wanted angle; each passenger is offered a foldable small table and electrical sockets are available.
As we head out of Beijing, passing by all the look-a-like buildings and apartment complexes, the train finally starts to pick up speed reaching 308 km/h. It is the fastest speed I’ve ever traveled by train but it runs smoothly, so you won’t feel a thing.
During our five hours ride soon we witnessed the so-called “Ghost cities”. Just looking out a window we could see huge construction across China in which there are no inhabitants and the cranes cease to work. We were in the middle of nowhere and in the distance there were gigantic uncompleted skyscrapers.
“A giant smog of unreality hangs over Chinese property. SocGen calculates that over the last decade, China has completed 16 billion square meters of floor space. This is equivalent to building Rome every two weeks” (SocGen, June 23, 2011)”.
Just asking our self where all this lead to?! Nowhere probably.
This railway line has a north-south trend. Departing from Beijing, you will cross the two longest rivers in China — the Yellow River and the Yangtze River — then arrive in Shanghai. So there’s not much sightseeing going on.
The high-speed network is one of the triumphs of the Chinese developmental model. The Chinese government argues the network has improved movement of labor and goods between wealthy coastal areas and internal second-tier cities, reduced the burden on the rest of the rail network, and created a job stimulus through the construction and maintenance of lines and stations. China is also now a leading bidder for overseas high-speed rail contracts, offering its technology at a much cheaper price than Japan.
The mighty Maglev train China even has the only train in the world that uses magnetic levitation to move without making contact with the ground or an electrical pickup. It is called Maglev train.
Shanghai Maglev trains are currently the fastest trains commercially operated in the world, with a top commercial speed of 431 km/h and a top non-commercial speed of 501 km/h.
Everything you need to know about trains all around the world, including China for sure you will find in the blog of Seat61.com