Photo by [email protected].
With just about three months left to the launch of the much-anticipated Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, everybody just wants to know how much those damn tickets will cost.
Railway minister Sheng Guangzu (盛光祖) has finally broken the silence, promising it will be more affordable to travel between the two cities by high-speed rail than by flying.
Two fair types will be available. “One is for non-stop trains between Beijing and Shanghai. The other is for trains that will stop at different stations or sections, whose ticket price will surely be lower than plane tickets,” Sheng said in comments to the People’s Daily.
But how much cheaper will it be, you ask? Minister Sheng was short on specifics. His official non-answer: “The fare should be calculated by enterprises in accordance with railway construction and operating costs.”
The answer does not give frequent travellers (and those hoping to be frequent travellers) much hope for rejoicing.
Full one-way flight fares on the so-called “Beijing-Shanghai express service” (which we wrote off as an egregious case of anti-competition and price-fixing back in 2007) now cost RMB1,130 — that’s waaaaay more than it would cost if the market were truly freed up and if the government stopped mollycoddling the state-owned airlines.
So how much cheaper than RMB1,130 will it cost to whittle yourself from Beijing to Shanghai in under five hours? Nobody knows for now, but we sure hope the new railway gives the airlines a good run for their money. It’s payback time, and no one will be shedding a tear when the airlines start to bleed.