Photo by [email protected].
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has announced the cancellation of the Wuhan-Nanjing flight route, beginning summer this year. The route is the first casualty of the onslaught by high-speed railway, which is now rapidly developing across China at breakneck speed.
With the 2009 launch of the Hewu Passenger Railway which has three daily trains running from Wuhan to Nanjing (and then on to Hefei) at 250kph, travel time between the two cities was cut down to just three hours. Second class tickets were priced very affordably at just RMB180 per person, and the trains ran at an average 90% of capacity.
This dealt a body blow to the Wuhan-Nanjing aviation route which was plied by China Southern and Lucky Air. Despite the airlines’ best efforts at trying to entice passengers with massive discounts of up to 80% off the full price of RMB730 (excluding fuel surcharge and airport tax), the fill rate for flights fell to below 50%. And, with the long distance of the airports from the city centres plus the two hour waiting time, passengers felt it made more sense to travel by train. On some days, planes take off with just 30 passengers on board.
Business has also been equaly bad for the long-distance inter-city bus routes. On Wednesday evening at 7pm, one bus driver at the long-distance bus station a Wuhan Evening News reporter spoke to said he had had no passengers for days. The Hubei Highway Transport Co. Ltd, the provincial long-distance bus transport company, has seen 200,000 fewer passenger trips over the course of the year, and a reduced income of RMB30 million.
Consumers stand to benefit from the inter-modal competition in the transportation sector, which is expected to intensify in the near future. A few days ago, railway minister Sheng Guangzu promised that Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway fares will be cheaper than flight fares, but did not give any specific numbers. June cannot come soon enough for us.