In a blink of eye – The booming of Chinese high speed train

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This year my visit to China goes from Chengdu – Mianyang – Hefei – Huainan – Shanghai, before the end of the trip, I already want to update on my blog some things about China.

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For someone who lives in Europe and visits China once per year, I really experience great changes every time I come back. Today I am going to talk about the CRH – Chinese railway high-speed train which is one of the most significant symbol of how fast China is developing.

China is really big, for cross province traveling, we usually fly from one capital city to another; however, to reach the final destination, we still need to take a train or bus from the airport.

This year, I have had the chance to take the CRH wherever possible.

I am going to introduce the CRH in the below sections:

The speed of the train
The speed of the train is up to 350km/h. This allows me to save half of the travel time! Imagine you travel between two cities(in my case from Huainan to Shanghai) which is more than 500km apart, traditionally by train it takes 8 hours, by car 6 hours, however, by CRH it takes only 3 hours!

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The speed of the coverage
I remember 5 years ago, CRH was luxury, it is only available between really big cities like Beijing to Tianjin, Beijing to Shanghai… This year, I am really impressed, that I can reach really small cities by CRH. I used to take a train for 2 hours from Chengdu to my hometown Mianyang, this year, I never expected I had the chance to travel with CRH, it took me only 40 minutes!

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The station
The traditional train stations in China are really dirty, messy, stink and crowded, it is one of the places I fear the most, you can easily hear people shouting, spitting or get robbed. Every year before the Chinese new year, you can even see a lot of people sleeping under the roof just to catch the early trains.

The traditional train station (Chengdu)
The traditional train station (Chengdu)

For most cities which have the CRH connections, we build a dedicated station somewhere a bit more remote but still reachable via metro or bus. The stations are new, clean, clear and bright, it gives me an illusion of walking in a airport. The design of the station is also very pretty and logical, the signs are big and clear, the boarding board is with both Chinese and English, it completely changed my mood when taking a train.

The CRH train station(Chengdu South station)
The CRH train station(Chengdu South station)

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The interior of the train
The crew
Traditionally, the crews on the airplanes(The stewardess ) are the most young and beautiful girls, but the crews on the trains are mostly mid-aged men and women. We even have a joke about it saying “The difference is because one is in the heaven on is on the earth.”.

However, almost all the crews on the CRH are beautiful girls and boys, it gives you an impression that you are taking an airplane.

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The snack bar
The snack bar design is also very pleasant, I used to order a spaghetti from there, it cost 25 Chinese yuan(around 3 euro), it tasted actually very good.

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The chair on sitting area
The chair on the CRH is very comfortable, it has the leg space even bigger than the airplane. The rear chair is designed with a gap with the little table behind it so that yo can rest better without disturbing the passenger behind you.

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The gap between the rear and the table
The gap between the rear and the table

The first time I took an CRH is in 2013, in the middle of the journey, the train changes the direction and drives to the reversed direction. I was surprised to see that all the seats on the train can also turn directions so that the passengers can avoid getting sick.

A crew is turning the seat so that the passengers seat towards the driving direction
A crew is turning the seat so that the passengers seat towards the driving direction

The sleeping area

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The toilet
For people who do not know, there is a huge difference between the toilet of Western style and Asian style, it is also one of the difficulties I am encountering whenever I come back. Luckily on the CRH, both are provided for passengers’ convenience.

The exterior of the train
The exterior of the train is by far mostly in white, with pointy head, on the body of the train you can see clearly CRH, on the head you can see the Chinese character ”和谐号”.

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The ticket system
Real name ticket booking
The whole Chinese train ticket system also experienced big evolution in recent years. Before, some people who have close contact with the ticket system people buy huge amount of train tickets and then sell them to end passengers with high price, as a result, normal people experienced huge difficulties buying tickets especially during Chinese new year. Since 2012, Chinese train ticket system changed the rules, all the train tickets must be sold to a passenger with Chinese ID card or international passport, on the ticket itself, it also prints your name and the ID number.

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Book your ticket online
Booking ticket online is not new, in Belgium, we usually book the ticket online and then print the ticket, or save the QR code of the ticket so that the conductor can check the ticket by scanning the QR code.
In China, the system is different, you book your ticket online with your personal info (Your name and the ID/Passport number), and then when you arrive at the station, you can get your ticket by going to the automatic ticket machine where you can immediately get your ticket by scanning your ID card.

The machine to print your ticket by scanning ID
The machine to print your ticket by scanning ID

You can also go to the counter with your ID or passport so that someone can help you to print the ticket.

Buying a train ticket from the counter
Buying a train ticket from the counter

CRH ticket
If you are taking a CRH, since the infrastructure is new, the “ticket-less” system for Chinese citizens is implemented. You can book the ticket online the same way as the normal train tickets, you can choose to print the ticket or not. If you choose not to print the ticket, you can enter the gate by just scanning your Chinese ID card, the conductor on the train can also check your ticket by scanning your ID card.

Entering the CRH gate by scanning ID card
Entering the CRH gate by scanning ID

Fascinating, isn’t it?

The price
The price is typically 2-4 times more than normal tickets, for a distance of 500km, the sitting price is 246 Chinese yuan(around 30 euro) compare to normal ticket 78 yuan(around 10 euro). But you reduce the travel time from 8 hours to 3 hours plus the much better service and environment, I think it is definitely worth it!

Above is my observation and experience of the Chinese railway high speed train, if you ever visit China, definitely take one of the CRH trains!(Usually the train starts with D or G):

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