BEIJING-TIANJIN HIGH SPEED TRAIN TELLS A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Last Updated: 2012-07-31
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An NNN-Xinhua Special Report

TIANJIN, July 31 (NNN-XINHUA) -- Guo Danfeng doesn't feel like she is maintaining a long-distance relationship, even though she has to travel more than 100 km every time she wants to see her boyfriend.

"It's because of the intercity train," said Guo, a postgraduate student at Beijing Normal University. Guo's boyfriend works in Tianjin, a port city located 137 km southeast of Beijing.

"The high-speed train only takes me half an hour," said the 24-year-old Tianjin native, who goes back to see her parents and boyfriend almost every weekend.

The Beijing-Tianjin high-speed intercity railway was inaugurated on Aug 1, 2008 as China's first high-speed railway. With a top speed of 292 km per hour, the line has greatly facilitated communications and enhanced exchanges between the two cities over the past four years.

Before the high-speed line went into use, it usually took nearly three hours to shuttle between Beijing and Tianjin, Guo recalled.

The high-speed train makes more than 70 trips between Beijing, the country's second most populous city, and third-ranked Tianjin every weekday and even more on weekends, according to the China Railway Customer Service Centre.

Guo said that if she were caught in traffic jam in Beijing, it would often take her two or more hours to arrive at the train station from her school, much longer than the time spent on the train.

Guo's dual-city lifestyle is shared by many who commute from workplace to home by high-speed train every month, every week or even every day.

Geng Dazhen, a customer manager at Pepsico Foods China, usually spends half of his working time on the high-speed train because of business. Commuting frequently between Beijing and Tianjin has become regular for him.

"It is very fast and convenient. The trains on this line depart every 10 minutes, so I don't need to book tickets in advance," Geng said.

After last summer's fatal high-speed train accident in Wenzhou in southeastern Xhejiang Province, railway authorities lowered the top speed of the railway from 300 to 292 km per hour. Although the accident cast a shadow over the safety of the country's high-speed rails, Geng doesn't seem to worry.

"I don't worry about it now, because that accident was an alarm and I believe that new technology has made the trains safer," Geng said.

The intercity train has not only made an impact on people's personal lives, but also facilitated business between the two cities.

Compared with Beijing, Tianjin enjoys the advantages of cheaper labour cost, lower land cost and accessible ports. Many international companies set up their China headquarters in Beijing and customer service centres in Tianjin, including the Samsung Group.

A shopping mall called "Little Florence Town", located in the Wuqing district of Tianjin, attracts thousands of people from Beijing daily to purchase luxury goods at a high discount. "Nearly 70 percent of my customers come from Beijing," said a shopkeeper at the mall.

The high-speed railway has witnessed steady passenger growth since it went into operation. It transported 14.58 million passengers in 2009 and 18.26 million in 2010. Last year, the number further rose to 21.04 million, according to figures from the Ministry of Railways.

Liu Binglian, a logistics professor at the Tianjin-based Nankai University, said traveling by train remains the first choice for the majority of Chinese people.

Liu said the significance of the Beijing-Tianjin high-speed train lies in the fact that it not only ushered in a time-saving and convenient way for individuals to travel, but has also helped to expand business circles in the two cities.

"The Beijing-Tianjin intercity high-speed train can serve as a model for other trains, as it demonstrates the huge potential for more lines across China in the future, not only for short-distance traveling, but also for long-distance traffic networks," Liu said. -- NNN-XINHUA