Longest High-Speed Railway to Compete With A380s in China

Longest High-Speed Railway to Compete With A380s in China
China Rail High-Speed locomotives in a maintenance yard in Beijing, China. China's rail ministry mainly uses China CNR Corp. trains, and the Beijing to Guangzhou high-speed line opens Dec. 26, 2012. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Travelers in China will soon have the choice of traveling on the world’s longest high-speed train line or flying on an Airbus SAS A380 superjumbo when going from Beijing to Guangzhou.

A 2,298-kilometer (1,428 mile) line linking the nation’s capital and the southern city will open Dec. 26, according to a statement by the Ministry of Railways today, whisking passengers between the two in as few as eight hours. The trains will initially run at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour.

The new line adds to competition for China Southern Airlines Co. A380s flying between the cities, an about three-hour flight. The carrier has already lost money on domestic A380 services in the first half, according to Citigroup Inc. The planes have been used on the route for about a year as the airline has so far failed to fly them on overseas services from Beijing.

The bullet-train line, which will eventually connect to Hong Kong, is part of China’s plans to build a 16,000-kilometer long network by 2015. The services have lured passengers from flights that often suffer delays in China because of airspace restrictions and poor weather.

Nationwide rail passenger numbers rose 4.6 percent to 1.7 billion through November, according to the ministry. The numbers have climbed because of the opening of new lines and the easing of safety concerns following a fatal crash last year.

‘Significant Milestone’

“The service marks a significant milestone of our high-speed rail construction,” the ministry said in the statement. “It will ease pressure on the rail transport between Beijing and Guangzhou, especially during the peak Chinese New Year holiday.”

Guangzhou, China Southern’s home city, is in the Pearl River Delta region, one of the nation’s major manufacturing centers. It’s less than 200 kilometers northwest of Hong Kong.

China Southern rose 1.1 percent to close at HK$3.80 in Hong Kong trading today. The benchmark Hang Seng Index rose 0.7 percent.

The rail ministry is yet to announce ticket prices for the new high-speed service, which mainly uses China CNR Corp. trains. A one-way China Southern flight from Beijing to Guangzhou leaving tomorrow costs at least 1,620 yuan ($259), according to the carrier’s website.

A high-speed train line connecting Beijing and Shanghai, China’s two biggest cities, opened in June last year. About a month later, 40 people died in a crash on a different line near the eastern city of Wenzhou.