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What is China's High-Speed Rail (HSR)? Generally speaking, a rail network that offers 200–350 kph (124–217 mph) trains is an HSR network. Now, China has the largest high-speed rail network in the world. At the end of 2018, there were about 25,000 kilometers (15,534 miles) of high-speed rail lines in service.
There are "4 vertical lines and 4 horizontal lines" for the main China HSR network. This means there are four north–south high-speed rail lines and four east–west high-speed rail lines. They are the basis for the China high-speed rail network.
The four north–south HSR lines in China:
The four east–west HSR lines in China:
It connects two popular cities and reduces the journey time from 12 hours to 5 hours (2 hours by air). Beijing and Shanghai are also two of the most popular tourist cities, and travelers often experience China HSR trains on this route for the first time.
Read more about the Beijing–Shanghai HSR Travel Route to get ideas for planning a trip.
Beijing–Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong High-Speed Route is the longest passenger dedicated high-speed rail line in the world, consisting of Beijing–Guangzhou, Guangzhou–Shenzhen and Shenzhen–Hong Kong high-speed railways. The Beijing–Guangzhou HSR section was opened in 2012. And the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong HSR section was put into service in September, 2018. It connects North China, Central China, and South China.
It connects Northeast China with the national capital, Beijing. It cuts the journey time from 12 hours to 6 hours between Beijing and Harbin.
It connects the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta. The Hangzhou–Ningbo section is passenger dedicated, with a design speed of 350 kph. The rest is mixed for passenger and cargo utilization, with a design speed of 250 kph. There are only D-trains (running at 180–250 kph) in operation, and the journey takes about 10½ hours.
The Qingdao–Taiyuan HSR line consists of the Qingdao–Jinan HRS line, the Jinan–Shijiazhuang HSR line, and the Shijiazhuang–Taiyuan HSR line.
Currently, you can travel from Qingdao to Jinan within 3 hours. Only one HSR train runs from Jinan Xi to Shijiazhuang, taking 3½ hours and departing at 8am. There are many HSR trains running from Shijiazhuang to Taiyuan, taking about 1½ hours.
This HSR is built alongside the Yangtze River. The high-speed trains on most of the route have an average speed of 200 to 250 kph, except on the line from Shanghai to Nanjing (350 kph), and from Yichang to Wanzhou (160 kph) because of the curves in the track that were designed to get around the landforms in the area.
Until the line from Lichuan to Chongqing becomes operational, you can travel from Shanghai to Yichang, from Yichang to Wanzhou, and from Chongqing to Chengdu by high-speed trains. Taking a Yangtze River Three Gorges cruise between Chongqing and Yichang would be a nice way to break up a high-speed train journey if you have time to take in the scenery.
Only one part of the route is in service: the line from Zhengzhou to Xi'an. The rest is under construction: Xuzhou–Zhengzhou (opening date: December 2016), Xi'an–Baoji, and Baoji–Lanzhou (opening date: 2017).
You only need 2 hours to travel from Zhengzhou to Xi'an on the fastest train, G97 (14:41–16:31). The other G and D trains take 2 to 3 hours due to more stops on the journey.
The Shanghai–Kunming HSR line is partly operational from the Shanghai to Guiyang line. The Guiyang–Kunming line (opening date: end of 2016) is under construction. It will connect East China and Central China with Southwest China after its completion. It's one of the most beautiful train travel routes in China. Travelers can see modern cities, ethic culture, and natural scenery on this route.
Regional intercity HSR lines are short-distance, passenger-dedicated high-speed lines connecting cities in the same province, area, or regional. They are independent from the national high-speed rail grid, with an average speed of 200 to 250 km/h, sometimes up to 300km/h. Operational intercity HSR lines in China are listed below:
|HSR Line||Distance (km)||Design Speed (km/h)||Duration|
|Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway||115||350||35–57min|
|Shanghai–Nanjing Intercity Railway||301||350||1h 7min–3h 33min|
|Nanchang–Jiujiang Intercity Railway||131||250||1h–1h 10min|
|Shanghai–Hangzhou Intercity Railway||169||350||1h|
|Chengdu–Dujiangyan Intercity Railway||65||220||19–39min|
|Changchun–Jilin Intercity Railway||111||250||40–50min|
|Guangzhou–Zhuhai Intercity Railway||117||200||59min–1h 24min|
|Guiyang–Kaiyang Intercity Railway||62||200||48 min–1h 7min|
See more Popular Train Travel Routes.
The construction of HSR in China began with the building of the Qinhuangdao–Shenyang Passenger Dedicated Line (秦皇岛–沈阳客运专线) in 1999 (it opened in 2003), offering a service of 250 kph (155 mph), although it's not recognized as a China HSR.
The first China HSR offering 350 kph (217 mph) services was the Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway, which has been in service since August 1, 2008.
This was the first HSR that allowed trains to operate faster than 300 kph. It takes about 30 minutes to get from Beijing to Tianjin.
If you take a cruise from Tianjin, this is a good choice for you to begin your China tour in Beijing, and it's also a very convenient way to catch your cruise in Tianjin when traveling from Beijing. Read more about the Best Ways to Get from Beijing to Tianjin Port.
China's high-speed rail plans are ambitious, planning to invest $300 billion to construct the largest, fastest, and most technologically advanced high-speed railway system in the world by 2020. It is predicted that the HSR (High-Speed Railway) network will reach 30,000 kilometers (18,641 mi) when the major rail lines are completed.
High-speed rail networks in China are more widely covered in central and eastern China than in western China, with the latter region's HSR currently being under construction for economic development.
Most cities have high-speed railways, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Guilin, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Changsha, Harbin, Guiyang, Kunming, Xining, Changchun, Shenyang, Dalian, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, Jinan, Qingdao, Zhengzhou, Luoyang, Hefei, Nanjing, Nanchang, Wuhan, Lanzhou, Urumqi, Fuzhou, Xiamen, and Nanning. But cities like Lhasa and Shigatze haven't opened high-speed railways yet.
It is handy to know that even if two cities have high-speed railway stations, there may not be a train running between the two cities, e.g. Guilin and Xi'an are two popular tourist cities and both cities have high-speed railway stations, but there are no high-speed trains currently running between these two cities.
Please see the China High-Speed Railway Lines Network Map above to see if there are trains running between the two cities you are planning to visit on your tour, or just search the train schedule at China Highlights Train Ticket Service.
Shanghai's Maglev Train was the first magnetically levitated high-speed train line in operation in the world. It is owned and operated by Shanghai's city government. All other high-speed trains in China are owned and operated by China Railway Corporation.
Shanghai's Maglev Train, launched in 2004, has a maximum speed of 431 kph. It runs between Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai's Longyang Road Metro Station at intervals of 15 to 20 minutes. The journey only takes about 8 minutes, and a one-way ticket is 50 yuan.
Aug. 1, 2008: The first HSR (Beijing–Tianjin route) opened.
Dec. 26, 2009: The longest and most complicated Wuhan–Guangzhou line (part of the Beijing–Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong route) opened.
Feb. 6, 2010: The first HSR built on a collapsible loess area (Zhengzhou—Xi'an route) opened.
Dec. 1, 2012: The first HSR built on a high latitude area (Harbin–Dalian route) opened.
Nov. 25, 2015: Seventeen leaders from 17 countries took an HSR train from Suzhou to Shanghai.
If you are interested in experiencing a bullet train in your China trip, please see our popular tours below for inspiration:
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