Friday, July 22, 2011

From Beijing to Shanghai the hard way, on High-Speed Rail

The Chinese High-Speed Rail is having a mess of trouble.  And, our high-speed rail promoters in the US envy them so much.

You have to wonder why.  They rushed like crazy to complete the Beijing to Shanghai route in time to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Revolution.  This train was intended to be part of that celebration.

In other words, they didn't build is as a part of their transportation need analysis. They built it for prestige and the admiration from the West.  They increased their debts enormously by building this so fast.  The outcomes were corruption, sloppy construction, unsafe infrastructure, and equipment failures, including power.

Now,they've cut the number of trains in operation since so few can afford to ride them, they cut the speed, and they've cut the ticket costs.  They can do that, since they can do whatever they damn please, regardless of the consequences.

Currently, they are talking about a "break-in" periods of several months. Alternative flying opportunities present themselves with lowered ticket prices to attract passengers discouraged by the inadequacy of the trains.  It's the fallacy of competition between transit modalities and from a business stand-point, a bad idea. But, it's Communist China, so the rules of business are somewhat different than ours. Presumably, profitability is secondary to this most highly centralized economy where the government has a firm hand in everything.

So, what can we possibly learn from this?  Do you even have to ask?
Canceled: 4 high-speed services
2011-07-23 09:26

THE operator of the newly opened Shanghai-Beijing high-speed railway is canceling four services on the line due to poor ticket sales. 

The canceled services ran between Beijing and Jinan City.

The G181, D242, D242 and D241 trains on the Beijing-Jinan section will be suspended starting Monday, the operator said. 

Around 90 percent of tickets on some of the trains were unsold while the busiest saw a mere 40 percent occupancy. 

The high-speed rail operator said that the cancellations wouldn't be too great an inconvenience as there were plenty of other services to choose from. 

About 64 pairs of bullet trains ride between Beijing and Jinan.

Officials said the new station in Jinan was far from downtown, so many people were choosing the regular train services which stopped at the nearer old station. 

Meanwhile, adjustments are being made on the high-speed route based on the first three weeks of operation. 

On services that have proved less popular, 16-carriage trains have been reduced to eight carriages while carriages have been added to trains where there is greater demand for tickets. 

A bullet train with 16 carriages can carry 1,000 passengers.

Non-stop services along the 1,318-kilometer route have proved the most popular, and the fastest trip between Shanghai and Beijing takes just four hours and 48 minutes.

Ministry of Railways spokesman Wang Yongping said it would take two to three months for the new rail line to complete its "break-in" period.

"Challenges lie ahead," said Wang, adding the operations could be affected by the system's complex technology and the weather.

Passengers began to have doubts about the service after a series of early breakdowns resulted in massive delays. 

Many who had planned to take the train shifted to flights instead. Airlines which had offered 60 percent discounts to try to hang on to customers, changed that to just 20 percent after the train delays led to increased demand for flights. 

Source:Shanghai Daily

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