Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train makes debut

Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train makes debut

The USD 33 billion rail line, which has been operating on a trial basis since mid-May, will halve the journey time to under five hours and could hurt airlines operating on the busy route plagued by delays and cancellations.

The fast link, which has been hit by safety concerns and graft, is opening a year ahead of schedule and will be able to carry 80 million passengers a year -- double the current capacity on the 1,318-kilometre route.

"It could play a transformational role in shaping the future economic dynamics in coastal China ... by creating more spillover effects to regions lying along the sprawling high-speed railway line," Ren Xianfang, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, told AFP.

But for the airline industry, the impact could be "destructive", she warned.One-way ticket prices will range between USD 63- USD 270 subject to further adjustments, vice rail minister Hu Yadong said earlier this  month, compared with about 1,300 yuan for a flight between the two cities.

Anxious about losing passengers to the new line, airlines have slashed some ticket prices by as much as 65 percent to below the cost of the cheapest rail pass, state media said Wednesday, citing figures from travel website ctrip.com.

Work on the high-speed railway started in April 2008 with a planned investment of 220.9 billion yuan.

China has invested heavily in its high-speed rail network, which spanned 8,358 kilometres at the end of 2010 and is expected to exceed 13,000 kilometres by 2012 and 16,000 kilometres by 2020.

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