Aboard the Beijing-Shanghai Bullet Train

By James Fallows

A few days ago my wife and I took the famed Chinese high-speed train from the Beijing South Station to Shanghai's Hongqiao. Total distance 800+ miles, travel time (including en-route stops) just over 5 hours, average cruising speed 300 kms per hour, or about 180 mph. Yes, you guessed it, that's more than twice as fast as the Amtrak Acela's average 80 mph between New York and Washington. 


You can name your policy argument about China's high-speed trains: Have they been a wasteful over-investment for a country whose peasants can't afford a ticket? Or do they by contrast show pride in infrastructure, vs. U.S. somnolence and failure to invest? Has China's Railroad Ministry, which just this week got re-organized out of existence, been too corrupt? What's the right balance between trains and planes in China's future transport mix? And on down the line. 

I'll leave those for another time. Right now, an idea of how it looks.

The sleek train on the platform:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Train1.jpg


The departure board, with bullet trains G125 and G127 from Beijing to Shanghai leaving five minutes apart:

Thumbnail image for train2.jpg


The stylish conductors, with their jazzy military-chic look: 

Thumbnail image for Train3.jpg


Similarly, with view of other station amenities:

HighSpdRail.png


Detail on the beach-resort ad you see near the top of the previous picture:

Train7.png


Some of the other passengers waiting for this same bullet train:

HighSpeedRail2.png


In the "soft-seat" luxury car, where we were. Note the out-the-window view; it was a rough air-quality day in northern China:

Thumbnail image for Train6.jpg

No larger policy point, apart from this being (like the much-slower Amtrak) by far the best way to get from the country's political capital to its financial capital. And the idea as always is to convey some of the varied texture of how modern China looks.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/03/aboard-the-beijing-shanghai-bullet-train/273957/