As the world’s most populated country, and spanning an area of almost ten million square kilometres, nowhere is the need for accessible and efficient public transport greater than in China.
Consequently, China has been at the forefront of advancements in railway technology and has pioneered high-speed rail travel since the 1940s when the steam-locomotive driven Asia Express, with a maximum speed of 130kmph, was among the fastest trains in Asia.

China High Speed Rail – travel in modern China

Significant government investment in China’s high speed railways have seen the country’s rail network expand to areas that were until recently considered remote and inaccessible. In tandem with China’s growing rail infrastructure, the rolling stock which travels upon it has enjoyed continuous technical development. The result is that China boasts the largest, busiest and most technologically advanced high-speed rail network in the world.

In the twenty-first century more than 1.3 million travellers, both domestic and visitors to China, travel on the China High Speed Rail (HSR) network every day. Not only are these trains spectacular to look at, they are also supremely comfortable, efficient and punctual. For many overseas visitors, journeying between China’s great cities and attractions by HSR is an unforgettable highlight of their trip in its own right.

An additional benefit of the continuing extension of China’s already comprehensive rail network is that it is enabling visitors to enjoy historic, culturally-rich and naturally beautiful areas off the beaten tourist path which had previously been deemed inaccessible due to their remoteness.

Today, from the dramatically beautiful foothills of the Himalayas in Tibet to the ancient stepped rice-paddies that climb rural hillsides far from any city, more of China’s wonders are becoming available to visitors than at any time in the past thanks to unparalleled rail travel.

The future of high speed rail travel in China

China’s love affair with efficient, inexpensive and high-speed rail travel shows no sign of ending any time soon and the country continues to invest in expanding its network. Revolutionary train technologies such as magnetic levitation (MagLev) have already been successfully trialled; trains on the thirty kilometre MagLev track between Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the Pudong district of Shanghai routinely travel at 245kmph.

The HSR network, already the world’s largest with more than 11,000 kilometres of track spanning China, is expected to have extended by a further 7,000 kilometres by the end of 2015. Having already developed its own technologically-advanced trains, China is adopting technologies from other countries for implementation within its rail infrastructure. Fully funded by the government, conventional rail travel is gradually being succeeded by HSR travel with an eventual goal of trains reaching speeds of up to 350 kmph.

2014 saw the opening of a new $2billion dollar railway extension connecting Tibet’s capital Lhasa with the Kingdom’s second largest city Shigatse and the 293-km Hanyi Railway which links Wuhan and Yichang, two of the largest cities in Central China’s Hubei province.

Future projects include the 1,776km Lanxin (Lanzhou-Xinjiang) High-Speed Rail Line (aka the Lanzhou-Urumqi High-Speed Railway or the Lanxin Second Railway) which is due to open in 2015. This is the first long-distance high-speed line in West China connecting Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu Province, with Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in north-west China.
In 2016, the final section of the Beijing–Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong line, at 2,260 kilometers the longest passenger-dedicated high-speed rail line in the world, will open linking the southern cities of Shenzen and Hong Kong. The Jinan–Shijiazhuang HSR line is also due to open in 2016, whilst in 2017 HSR links between Baoji and Lanzhou, and Changsha and Kunming will further extend China’s state-of-the-art rail network.

All of these developments mean that, for China’s overseas visitors, the ability to experience more of China’s natural, historical and cultural wonders quickly and comfortably by train is becoming easier every day.