If you’re still looking for those 400RMB Shanghai-Beijing air tickets and can’t find them, look no further. They do not exist anymore.
Thanks or no thanks to the serious glitches that have been happening on our brand new, multi-billion dollar high speed rail, passengers have decided to head back to the airports in droves.
The airlines have, for their part, welcomed the returning passengers by pushing prices back up, and the biggest discounts now being offered for flights on the sector are now 20% of full rack rates. This means, if you’re looking to fly between the two cities, expect to pay about 800-900 RMB each way.
Said an anonymous airline employee to China Radio International, “We were initially very pessimistic about the situation because the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway was launched during the rainy season, which is really the worst season for the airlines.”
While the airline he works for was bracing itself for the high-speed railway to lure away 20% of passengers, the latest figures don’t look all too bad. Airline ticket sales so far in July are down just a modest 5% from June, and a very manageable 12% from July 2010.
If the online discourse is reflective of public opinion, many Chinese people are already beginning to dismiss the high-speed railway as a billion-dollar national disgrace
In a post on Sina Weibo that has been retweeted 5,000 times, Xu Jingbo (徐静波), president of the Japan-based Asia News Agency, fumed, “When the Shinkansen bullet trains resumed operation in Japan after the great earthquake, the chief of the Japan Railways Group had to bow 90 degrees at the press conference when signal and line glitches were discovered. In China, there’s been three glitches in four days on the high-speed rail network and the railway ministry shows not even the slightest touch of apology. Conversely, their spokesman has been aggressively highlighting two key points: Firstly, our high-speed rail is absolutely superb, except there are teething problems. Secondly, don’t pay any heed to the criticisms of the Japanese media because they are purely nitpicking. So the whole world’s wrong, just not them. I give it to them.”
Japanese companies have threatened to sue if China patented high-speed rail technology they believe to have originated in Japan. The accusations have been vehemently rejected by the Ministry of Railways, which says China’s high-speed trains are more superior than the shinkansen.