Are Trains Faster Than Airplanes in China?

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China is one of the largest countries in the world with the largest population. It makes sense, then, that China also has the largest network of railway lines as well as the fastest trains in the world. The high speed trains in China (高铁 gāotiě), run by China Railway High-speed (CRH), first started carrying passengers in 2008 from Beijing to Tianjin at 350km/h. In less than 10 years, China grew to account for 2/3 of the world's high speed railroad tracks stretching 25,000km around the country, and soon across international borders. Construction continues around the country with plans to have 38,000km of high speed tracks built by the year 2025.

Trains are often the preferred method of travel in China with twice as many people choosing the train over airplanes domestically, especially for trips under 500km. Trains aren't affected by adverse weather like airplanes are and are nearly always on schedule. The high speed trains in particular are comfortable, spacious, and have a dining and snack car (餐车, cānchē). Half of all train passengers in China take high speed trains with 1.8 billion riders per year.

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In addition to the high speed trains connecting cities around China, there are two short-track maglev trains (磁悬浮 cíxuánfú), one in Changsha and the most famous one in Shanghai connecting the international airport at Pudong to the city's subway system. Maglev stands for magnetic levitation which means the train doesn't have wheels but hovers above the tracks. It is not only the fastest commercial electric train in the world reaching 430km/h but is also remarkably cheap at only 50RMB one-way for the 8 minute 30km ride. The maglev train was built as a feasibility test and, since the tracks were too difficult to use on a large scale, now is a novelty train ride plus a convenient way to get to and from Shanghai's Pudong Airport.


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