High-speed rail ride thrills Cana­di­ans

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By MAYA LIU in Van­cou­ver For China Daily

A group of young peo­ple from Canada re­cently took an un­for­get­table train ride through China’s Guang­dong prov­ince.

The mem­bers of the “Golden Panda” North Amer­i­can Film­maker Cul­tural Im­mer­sion Trip trav­eled on China’s high-speed rail (HSR), the world’s long­est rail line with the fastest train in com­mer­cial ser­vice, from Guangzhou to Shen­zhen at speeds of 300 km/h and higher.

They were sur­prised upon learn­ing that it took only 44 min­utes to get to Shen­zhen. Eight years ago, the trip would have taken three hours.

The Guangzhou-Shen­zhen Rail­way is 147 kilo­me­ters long, and it is part of the Bei­jing-Hong Kong High-Speed Rail­way, which is an im­por­tant con­nec­tion be­tween China’s North and South. With its op­er­at­ing speed at 350 km/h, the rail­way cut the travel time be­tween Bei­jing and Guangzhou (2,360 km) to eight hours.

Jan Walls, PhD, well­known Canadian si­nol­o­gist and also a leader of the cul­tural im­mer­sion trip group, told China Daily that he was amazed by the rapid devel­op­ment of the sys­tem.

“I’ve been to China so many times, and there is al­ways some­thing new com­ing around ev­ery time I take China’s high-speed train,” Walls said. He said the ride was “so com­fort­able; the fa­cil­i­ties are very mod­ern, nice and clean”.

The HSR build­ing spree in China be­gan less than two decades ago, and has be­come a sym­bol of China’s mod­ern devel­op­ment. The train’s awe-inspiring speed, rel­a­tively low ticket prices and ef­fi­ciency im­pressed the Canadian group.

Most of Amer­ica’s and Canada’s mas­sive rail net­works are used to carry freight. Air travel in North Amer­ica is rel­a­tively cheaper and faster. Other rea­sons such as com­par­a­tively slow sys­tem up­grades and train de­lays make travel by train a less popular op­tion in North Amer­ica com­pared with cars, buses and air­planes. The rail sys­tem in Amer­ica lags Europe and Asia in rid­er­ship.

“I wish Van­cou­ver could have some­thing like this, so we could go to [Las] Ve­gas or L.A. all the time,” said trip mem­ber Michelle Lee.

In the US, Cal­i­for­nia has bro­ken ground for a HSR net­work.

“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 per­cent of Amer­i­cans ac­cess to high-speed rail,” US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union ad­dress.

De­spite the fact that fast trains have be­come preva­lent in many coun­tries since the start of the 21st cen­tury, Canada is the only coun­try with­out high-speed trains among the G8 na­tions.

Rail­ways are un­der­uti­lized for car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers, and rail rid­er­ship is low in com­par­i­son with other coun­tries. Train tick­ets are ex­pen­sive, too.

Slow speed is also a ma­jor rea­son that train trips are un­pop­u­lar in Canada. Trav­el­ing by train from Toronto to Mon­treal, for ex­am­ple, will take at least four and a half hours, whereas trav­el­ing a sim­i­lar dis­tance by HSR in China takes about half that time.

On­tario Min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion Glen Mur­ray an­nounced in April 2014 that the prov­ince will con­struct a high-speed rail that con­nects Wind­sor, Lon­don, Kitch­en­erWater­loo and Toronto within the next 10 years.

Rail ex­perts in China ex­pressed their ea­ger­ness to take part in that high-speed rail-build­ing project.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the two coun­tries ini­ti­ated some dis­cus­sions ear­lier this year. Since many early Chi­nese mi­grant work­ers played in­stru­men­tal roles in build­ing the pan-Canadian rail­way, the in­volve­ment of China’s pro­fes­sional rail­build­ing teams would be of spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance to the two coun­tries.

High-speed rail in China ar­rived later than it did in Ja­pan and the ad­vanced Euro­pean coun­tries, but China’s HSR sys­tem has rapidly ex­panded into the world’s most ex­ten­sive net­work.

China now had more than 16,000 km of high-speed rail at the end of 2014, and the long­est net­work in the world, ac­cord­ing to Xin­hua News Agency.

Chi­nese rail­way pro­fes­sion­als over­came se­vere topo­graph­i­cal and weather con­di­tions in cer­tain re­gions; the Chi­nese fac­to­ries are now also able to man­u­fac­ture the core parts of the trains do­mes­ti­cally.

By Oct 1, 2014, China’s high-speed trains had car­ried more than 2.9 bil­lion pas­sen­gers since their launch in April 2007.

With lower costs and lead­ing tech­nolo­gies, China has won nu­mer­ous HSR con­tracts in emerg­ing as well as de­vel­oped coun­tries.

China’s Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang is known as the “No.1 high­speed train sales­man” in the in­ter­na­tional arena. Dur­ing his vis­its to Euro­pean, African and Southeast Asian coun­tries, he suc­cess­fully pressed for the sign­ing of sev­eral rail­way-con­struc­tion con­tracts.

To the young vis­i­tors from Canada, the train pro­vided an ex­cel­lent win­dow into China and its cul­ture.

“You get to see var­i­ous, dif­fer­ent parts of the cul­ture through dif­fer­ent ar­eas,” said trip mem­ber Collin Kortschak.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Young Canadian film­mak­ers Antony Packer (left) and Collin Kortschak take a high-speed train from Guangzhou to Shen­zhen.

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