By Joyce Roque
Jul. 5 – The new high speed train from Shanghai to Nanjing, which began operations on Jul. 1, has cut travel time between cities from at least three hours to about one hour and 40 minutes with prices 56 percent higher than regular trains.
Ticket prices begin at RMB146 for a one way second-class seat and RMB233 for a one way first-class seat. The difference in comfort between the two is not huge. The second-class seats have five people per row or 100 people per carriage as opposed to first class with only 80 people per carriage.
The second-class seat is comfortable enough for a nap with ample leg space and reclining seats for even the tall expatriate. There is a retractable desk behind every seat that is the right size for reading or writing in addition to a spacious overhead storage shelf.
First class seats are wider and plusher. Toilet facilities for both classes include a squat and a Western-style toilet and two sinks. There is a dining cart that sells bottled drinks and snacks. The cabin attendants wear blue and white checkered tops with knee length denim skirts.
The Shanghai to Nanjing route made quick stops at South Kunshan, Wuxi, Danyang and Zhenjiang while the Nanjing to Shanghai route passed by Changzhou, Wuxi, Suzhou and South Kunshan.
The speed train begins its route at the newly opened Hongqiao Railway Station accessible via Metro Line 2 and soon Metro Line 10. From People’s Square stop on Metro Line 2, it took about 35 minutes to reach the Hongqiao Railway Station stop.
The stop is larger than regular subway platforms in the city, gleaming new and still slightly smelling of paint and cement. Allot enough time for the 5-10 minute walk it takes from the subway stop to the railway station across the arrival area to the long escalator to the second floor departure area. You will also need to time to line up, go through security and look for your departure gate. It helps that there are railway service officers posted around the area to help travelers find their way around.
The Hongqiao Railway Station is massive with four levels. From the subway line, you enter the railway station’s basement level where the ticket vending machines, rail and subway ticket counters are located.
Local and foreign restaurants and cafes are also slated to open there. So far, only one store is open for business, a Chinese bookstore called Relay. The first floor is the street level entrance for cars and taxi, while the second floor is the departures area.
There is a third floor that overlooks the entire second floor area with one newly opened Chinese restaurant at the left wing.
A number of the escalators and elevators are still not operational and there is the occasional sound of drills and hammering and sight of construction workers.
It is easy to buy a railway ticket with the many ticket vending machines around the basement area with both English and Chinese language options. You can pay using your bank card or cash.
The Hongqiao Railway Stations serves routes to the following destinations: Shanghai West Railway Station, North Nanxiang, North Anting, Huaoqiao, South Kunshan, Yangcheng Hu, Suzhou Industrial District, Suzhou, Suzhou New District, Wuxi New District, Wuxi, Huishan, Qishuyan, Changzhou, Danyang, Dantu, Zhenjiang, Baohuashan, Xianlin and Nanjing.