High-speed Shanghai-Beijing train gets green light

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SHANGHAI, Oct. 10 – The central government has given the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway the green light according to a notice posted on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website Tuesday.

With a speed of up to 350 kilometers per hour, the high-speed train would shorten rail travel times between Beijing and Shanghai from the current 10 hours to less than five.

The project, which has been on the drawing board for more than a decade with work expected to begin last year, was to be operational by 2010 before construction was postponed. The cost of the project, with initial estimates ranging from RMB130 billion to RMB170 billion, could exceed RMB200 billion due to rising real estate prices and the cost of resettling people who live along the proposed path.

The 1,318 kilometer rail project has attracted the attention of France’s Alstom, Canada’s Bombardier, Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Germany’s Siemens, all vying to provide technology. It’s expected that high-speed wheel technology, like that used in Europe, Korea and Japan, will be employed over more the costly magnetic levitation that currently is only used on a tester extension in Shanghai.

It was not announced which technology will be used but Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun said last year that the ministry prefers using indigenous technology.

Fares could range between RMB600 and RMB700, about half the list price of an air ticket. Currently, passengers pay RMB453 for a seat, with trains running at a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour.