CRH2C at Wuhan. Photo: Xinhua

CHINA: Revenue services on the Wuhan – Guangzhou passenger-dedicated line began running on December 26, cutting the journey time between the capitals of Hubei and Guangdong provinces to under 3 h, compared with 10 h 30 min via the 1 068 km conventional route. The inaugural trains left the new stations at Wuhan and Guangzhou Bei at 09.00 on the first morning, with southbound train G1001 recording a time of 2 h 48 min at an average speed of 329·3 km/h.

Under construction since June 2005, the high speed line has 468 km on viaduct and 177 km in tunnel, and cost 116bn yuan to complete. The route was designed for 350 km/h operation, although trains are reported to be running at up to 380 km/h. During pre-opening trials on December 9 a maximum of 394·2 km/h was recorded.

Wuhan - Guangzhou is China’s second 350 km/h route to open for revenue service, following the 115 km Beijing – Tianjin line completed in mid-2008. It is operated using Chinese-built CRH2C (Kawasaki) and CRH3C (Siemens) trainsets, with two eight-car formations running in multiple on busier services. The 968 km line is expected to remain the longest high speed route in China until the completion of the 1 318 km Beijing – Shanghai passenger-dedicated line.

As well as linking the two major conurbations, the Wuhan – Guangzhou line will form a key element in the high speed corridor connecting Beijing with Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The line serves 13 smaller towns and cities, with intermediate stations at Xianning Bei, Chibi Bei, Yueyan Dong, Miluo Dong, Changsha Nan, Zuzhou Xi, Hengshan Xi, Henyang Dong, Leiyan Xi, Chenzhou Xi, Shaoguan and Qingyuan. Two more stations are under construction at Lechang Dong and Yingde Xi.

The final section from Guangzhou Bei to Shibi is expected to open on January 30. The line will meet the Guangzhou – Shenzhen – Kowloon Express Rail Link at Shibi, where a new high speed hub is being developed at the southern end of Guangzhou metro Line 3.

At present Chinese Railways is operating 28 trains per day each way, including short workings from both Wuhan and Guangzhou to Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. There are 21 trains between Wuhan and Guangzhou Bei, of which two non-stop runs cover the 922 km in 2 h 57 min southbound and 2 h 58 min northbound, giving a timetabled start-to-stop average of 312·5 km/h.

According to the People’s Daily, around 23 000 passengers used the line on the first day of operation, rising to more than 60 000 on January 1. Over the four-day New Year holiday period from December 31 to January 3 the route carried 180 000 passengers.

The Ministry of Railways expects to complete 16 000 km of high speed line by 2020, connecting 70 of China’s main cities and duplicating or replacing 80% of domestic airline routes. The ministry plans to complete 42 projects totalling 13 000 km by 2012, of which 5 000 km are designed for 250 km/h operation and 8 000 km for 350 km/h.

CRH2C passing Wuhan: Photo: Xinhua