Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Best of China? Hop on the CRH!

That’s short for China Railway High-Speed or simply the fast trains…and believe me, there is nothing better than riding them to your next destination. Hands down, hopping on a train is the best way to explore China as there are currently already 9,676 km (6,012 miles) of track routes in service connecting almost all the cities, and as of June 2011, 3,515 km (2,184 miles) of these rail lines reach top speeds of 300 km/h (186 mph), so basically, there really is no place you can’t reach in the Middle Kingdom.

The trains are clean and modern and the seats resemble those on an airplane. You can choose between first-class seats and regular second-class seats. What’s the difference? In my opinion, not much since there isn’t any special food service (unlike in the airlines) and the trip is usually fast. The trains don't serve food although you can buy some snacks and coffee. I must say though that first class seats definitely have more leg room and a slightly bigger seat. So if supreme comfort is what you're after, then by all means, go first class all the way.

So far there are 3 main fast trains in China. Here’s the rundown:


These make up the majority of the fast trains in China. They are the earlier generation CRHs, all with top speeds of 250 km/h (155 mph) but mostly going at an average speed of 150-200 km/h (93 – 125 mph).

What’s the cost? It really depends on how far your destination is. Here’s a sample cost.
HefeiShanghai  - one way regular class: 157 Rmb (US$25)
                            - one way first class: 189 Rmb (US$30)

Last year, waiting for the D train in Shanghai station with friends Isabel, Cathy, and Angela
My friend Claudette in the first class cabin of the D train


These are the latest generation CRH3 with top speeds of 330 km/h (over 200 mph) and some even reaching speeds of up to 380 km/h. The city connections that use these trains are the Beijing – Tianjin Intercity rail, Shanghai – Nanjing Intercity rail, WuhanGuangzhou, and ZhengzhouXi’an.

What’s the cost? These are more expensive than the D trains because of their speed.
For ShanghaiNanjing Intercity rail which opened in July 2010
tickets start above 200 Rmb (US$ 31) one way.

G train model
(file photo derived from Wikimedia Commons)

And the fastest of them all... the SHANGHAI MAGLEV TRAIN

The Shanghai Maglev (magnetic levitation) train is the first commercially operated high-speed magnetic levitation train in the world. The line connects Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the central Pudong city area of Shanghai (Longyang Road Station) and back. This is a distance of 30 kilometers which normally takes 45 minutes by taxi. Operation started on January 1, 2004. This ultra-fast train has a top operational commercial speed of 431 km/h (268 mph). This is faster than the TGV in France, faster than any Formula One car or MotoGP super bikes, and is roughly the same top speed as the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.

Shanghai Maglev Train

The Maglev costs 50 Rmb (US$ 8) for a one way trip. It travels 30 kilometers in 7 minutes and 20 seconds, which sounds almost unbelievable. To see it is to believe it and riding this incredible machine is an experience all its own. Imagine seeing cars traveling backwards on the highway? Yes, this is what you see on the Maglev. Cars going backwards!! You also get the feeling you might take off anytime soon, but don’t worry, the Maglev is contoured safely on the track. If you wanna experience the feeling of real speed, you have to try this at least once on your first visit to China. 
My brother Paolo beside the Maglev train
My mom in the interior of the Maglev train
To really experience the speed of the Maglev, watch this video on Youtube.
Click on the link below:


BeijingShanghai High-Speed Railway (opened June 2011)

Beijing to Shanghai 
Distance: 1,318 km (819 miles)
Travel time:  under 5 hours
Train top speed: 300 km/h (186 mph) for the entire trip

Shanghai – Nanjing Intercity High-Speed Railway (opened July 1, 2010)

Shanghai – Nanjing 
Distance:  301 km (187 miles)
Travel time: 1 hour and 13 minutes
Train speed: 350 km/h (217 mph)

Shanghai Maglev Train airport rail link (opened in 2004)

Shanghai Pudong Intl. Airport – Longyang Station (inside the city)
Distance: 30 km (19 miles)
Travel Time: 7 minutes and 20 seconds
Top Speed: 431 km/h (268 mph) now that’s fast!!!
BIG PRO: If you’re late for your flight, you might just make it with the Maglev!