China today launched the world's longest high-speed rail line connecting capital Beijing with southern metropolis of Guangzhou that cuts the travel time in the 2,298-km route from over 20 hours to eight hours, setting off a price war between the country's railways and airways.
Two bullet trains departed from stations in Beijing and Guangzhou at 9 am and 10 am respectively in a nationally- televised ceremony.
Running at an average speed of 300-km per hour, the trains cut the travel time in 2,298-km line from over 20 hours to about eight hours.
A total of 155 pairs of trains will run on the new line each day, almost a train every half-an-hour.
Alternative schedules have been made for weekends and peak travel hours, according to the Ministry of Railways (MOR).
There will still be 183 pairs of trains running daily on the old Beijing-Guangzhou line that runs parallel to the high-speed route, allaying concerns that the new line would
increase passengers' travel costs.
China's high-speed rail network was established in 2007 with technology collaborations with top companies like Siemens.
With the opening of the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed line, China now has more than 9,300 km of high-speed railway in operation.
The new line is one of four north-south lines expected to serve as the country's high-speed railway backbone, which also features four east-west lines.
According to the 12th five-year plan for railway development, by 2015, China will have around 120,000 km of railway in operation, including 18,000 km of high-speed
railway and an express railway network of 40,000 km, which allows speeds of over 160 km per hour, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
China now looks to export its high-speed technology to India and other countries.
The collaboration was discussed during the recently held Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) in New Delhi.
The development of high-speed train corridors alleviate pressure on regular tracks which could be used for freight transport.
The new line is expected to ease travel pressure during the Chinese New Year known as the Spring Festival during which millions of Chinese travel to their native places. The new Beijing-Guangzhou route is the longest high speed network China has launched after the Beijing-Shanghai Bullet train last year which brought down travel time to around five hours, covering over 1300 km distance between two of China's largest cities.
Officials say safety issues arising out of last year's deadly crash in which 35 people were killed were also addressed.
The new train covers Beijing with China's