Tag Archives: high speed

Guangzhou as the center of the GBA

Guangzhou’s plans for the high-speed railway network it will administer throughout the Greater Bay Area are starting to make better sense. Announced a few days ago, it has taken some time for local media outlets to get their heads around what it all means. But this much is becoming clear: like Rome and ox-carts 2,000 years ago, all tracks are going to lead to Guangzhou, and the provincial capital is going to become first among equals in the region. But unlike Rome, this is going to take a decade, not a century, to happen.

The plan has four basic components, all of which will be completed by 2030, five years ahead of the completion of the Greater Bay Area masterplan. 

First, the city’s railway network will spread its tentacles east and west. On its east side, it will extend the current Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed railway further north, so that it runs through the city center and onwards up to the airport (currently the line stops at Guangzhou South). Moreover, as reported yesterday, Guangzhou will build another, faster line, with trains running at 600km/h, along this side of the Bay. 

One the city’s western side, meanwhile, Guangzhou will build another high-speed railway line starting from the heart of the CBD, in the Tianhe District, running through Zhongshan and Zhuhai, down to Hengqin, which connects to Macau’s Cotai district. This is in addition to the existing 160km/h Intercity Railway that terminates at Zhuhai’s Gongbei border crossing with the older part of Macau, which is about to be extended out to Hengqin. 

Upon completion of these lines, with trains running at 360 km/h, Guangzhou’s city center will be within one hour’s journey from Hong Kong, Macau, and Shenzhen. 

Second, Guangzhou will use high-speed railways to connect up its four biggest stations, which in turn connect to the rest of the country. Currently, the Guangzhou Train Station and Guangzhou East Station are situated in the city center, with Guangzhou North and Guangzhou South on the edge of the city limits, connected only by slow-moving, multiple-stop Metro trains. These stations are important hubs for high-speed trains running in every direction: to Beijing in the north; to Zhanjiang, Nanning and Guizhou in the west; to Heyuan and Shantou in the east; and to Shenzhen and Hong Kong in the south.   

Third, the government will make Nansha a railway hub in its own right, by running multiple railways through the southernmost district, which is a special economic zone. It will immediately increase the frequency of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed railway stops at Nansha’s Qingsheng station, and it will eventually allow passengers to reach Nansha from the Guangzhou city center, Hong Kong, Macau, and Shenzhen in just 30 minutes. 

That is just the super-fast trains. Five more 160km/h Intercity Railway lines are also planned. Three will run north-south: Qinyuan to Nansha, extending to Zhongshan; Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport via Guangzhou South to Nansha, with an extension to Foshan’s city center; and from the Science City to Foshan’s Shunde via Panyu. Two will run east-west: from Huangpu to Foshan’s city center; and from the Sino-Singapore Knowledge City to Guangzhou East.

Phew. If you would like to read more in Chinese, here you go.

Foshan gets direct high-speed link to HK

On July 10, Foshan will begin running high-speed trains directly to Hong Kong. Similar to the announcement made yesterday about Zhaoqing, the Foshan service to Kowloon will be just one hour and 22 minutes. Second class fare is RMB225. Tickets will be available on trip.com (our recommendation).

It is not actually a new line. All that is happening is journeys previously requiring a change in Guangzhou South will now run direct, i.e., at certain times of day, trains will run all the way to and from Hong Kong.

Read more in Chinese.

Taking the HK-GZ bullet train

Anyone who travels frequently around the Greater Bay Area has probably grown accustomed to taking one of the many high-speed trains that criss-cross the region. For first-time visitors, it’s usually a fun experience, and it’s something that everyone living in the GBA needs to try at least once.

Of course, there are bullet trains, and then there are bullet trains. Some go at a maximum of 160kph, like the ones running between Zhuhai and Guangzhou. Others are a bit slower, like the Kowloon-Canton Through Train between Hunghom and Guangzhou. There is only one line currently running through the region that runs at speeds up to 350kph – a true bullet train. That is the one from Kowloon West up to Guangzhou South, where it connects to the national High Speed Railway network running to other provinces around China.

Traveling on this line is indeed a fun experience. It’s also a time-saving experience for people in a hurry: the fastest trains get to Guangzhou South in 46 minutes. But there are some important points to remember for first-time users that can make the experience more pleasant. They are as follows:

  • Book online: We have found Ctrip.com to be the easiest and most customer-friendly user experience. Go online or download the app, sign up, and buy a ticket in just a few clicks. It is best to do this online, because the trains can fill up on some days and at certain times. You will get an email with your reservation number. But you can’t yet (at time of writing) use it to board the trains – you still need to pick up a paper ticket at the station. (We will update this once that is ready – the train authorities say they are working on it.)
  • Time needed at the station: Some guides suggest you give yourself more than an hour before departure. We don’t think so – at least, there is no need to panic if you arrive late. Kowloon West is easier to navigate than Guangzhou South, but it has the immigration facilities for both HK and the mainland to pass through. If you arrive at either station with 30 minutes to go before departure, you can still make it. This is one of the best reasons to take the train rather than fly in China: the stations are downtown and don’t require longer than a few minutes to walk from the gate to your seat before liftoff. You just need time to collect the tickets and pass immigration/security checks. AND: they leave on time, unlike most flights in China.
  • Picking up the tickets for departures in Kowloon West: It’s a piece of cake to use the self-service ticketing machines located in the main lobby of the station – but only for holders of Home Return Permits (i.e. Chinese). Passport holders still need to go to the ticketing window and deal with a human. Lines are not usually very long, but give yourself an extra 15 minutes for this part, just in case.
  • If you are leaving from Guangzhou South: Keep in mind that Guangzhou South is a long car ride from the main CBD area of Tianhe. And once you have arrived there by car or taxi, you will need 15 minutes just to go downstairs to the ground floor before coming back up again once you have your ticket from the machines. It’s a huge station and you need a bit of time to find the kiosks and then walk back upstairs to the departure hall. Passport holders will need longer – 30 minutes is good – to go and see a human at the ticketing counters, which are near Exit B on the ground floor. There are also security checks to go through, both on the ground floor and on the departures level. But the good part is you don’t have to pass through immigration – that happens in Kowloon.
  • Warning: DO NOT GO on these trains at peak times of the year, i.e. CNY, May 1, Oct 1, etc. The station is a zoo!
  • On board: Sit back and relax. Watch the countryside whizz by. Buy a coffee from the trolley pushed by the seldom-smiling woman. Plug in your charger and connect to the free WiFi. Take a nap.
  • Arrival in Kowloon: Don’t forget to hold on to your paper ticket!! After you have passed through immigration for both the mainland (exit) and HK (entry) you might think you are done … but then you hit the exit turnstiles and need to insert your ticket to pass through. WARNING: If you have lost your ticket, you will need to go back and get another one to exit. It is hou ma fan! After that, you just follow the signs to the MTR or taxis.
  • Arrival in Guangzhou South: Because you have already cleared customs in HK, you just step off the train and head straight to the taxi lines, or to the Guangzhou Metro downstairs. If you are going elsewhere in China, you go to the platform that has your connecting train.
  • COMING SOON: In October, a new railway line is scheduled to open that will connect Guangzhou South with Guangzhou East, the main station located in the city’s Tianhe CBD. That ride will apparently take less than 15 minutes. At the time of writing, a trip on the Metro, with many stops and line-changes, will take more than an hour from Guangzhou South to Guangzhou East.

Safe trip!

Shenzhen to build two more big stations

Shenzhen has big plans as a railway hub for the region, according to a new masterplan released this week. In addition to its own extensive metro network, the city will build two new high-speed railway stations. 

Under a masterplan that will run until 2030, which was recently approved by China Railway Corp. and the provincial government, the two new stations, Xili Station and Shenzhen Airport Station, will bring the total number of the major railway stations in the city to seven.

Xili Station in Nanshan District will mainly serve as a key node on the future Coastal Passenger Special Line, as well as the existing High-Speed Railway lines running between Shenzhen and Maoming (in the far west of Guangdong) and Ganzhou (in Jiangxi province, to the north). Some trains on the Shenzhen-Huizhou and Shenzhen-Zhuhai Intercity Railway Lines (under construction) will also make stops at the station.

The Coastal Passenger Special Line will run along the country’s eastern coast linking the Greater Bay Area with the Yangtze River Delta around Shanghai and Hangzhou. Upon completion It will take about two hours from Shenzhen to Xiamen (currently it takes about 3.5 hours) and six hours to Shanghai (currently eight).

According to the plan, the city will have three main “hub stations”: Shenzhen North Railway Station, Xili Station and Shenzhen Station (Luohu). Four others will serve as “auxiliary stations”: Shenzhen East Station, Futian Station, Shenzhen Airport Station and Pingshan Station.

Read more (in Chinese).

Hi-speed railway ticketing issues to be addressed

Passengers taking the high-speed railway between Hong Kong and the mainland may soon be able to enjoy easier ticketing procedures, with rail operators on both sides of the border in talks, reports the SCMP.

Michael Tien Puk-sun, a lawmaker and former railway boss, said the MTR Corporation and the China Railway Corporation were considering a proposal to allow passengers to buy tickets on arrival and board any train right away.

The new plan would erase the need to purchase tickets in advance – but it comes with a risk: passengers would not be guaranteed a seat.

The shortest travel time from West Kowloon Station to Shenzhen is only 14 minutes. For Guangzhou South, it is 47 minutes. Read more.