Home / China / View

Bullet train let down by service

By Fu Jing | China Daily | Updated: 2015-03-10 07:56

With more than 16,000 kilometers of high-speed rail network so far, China has 60 percent of the world's total. Based on such a miracle, achieved within about ten years, Premier Li Keqiang has been going all-out to sell the country's high-speed railway capabilities around the world during his overseas trips.

Having worked in Brussels for several years, I have not had a chance to take a high-speed train in China, until I took a train from Beijing to Zhengzhou in Henan province during the recent Spring Festival to visit my relatives. Frankly, this was both a happy and annoying journey.

Shortly after I landed in Beijing airport on the early morning of the sixth day of Lunar New Year, I took a taxi to Beijing West Train Station, where I could only buy a privileged guest ticket on the self-service machine, which cost two times more than a second class ticket.

Having learned from the media that China's high-speed railway services are comparable to those offered on the flight when the bullet trains were first put into operation, I thought I would be treated as distinguished guest on the train.

After the safety checks, I entered the waiting hall and waiting to be called to take train at eight o'clock without queuing because I had a special ticket. However, I was not asked to enjoy such privilege, and I joined a long line to the platform.

My carriage was in the very front of the train, and I was the only guest in the carriage. Many reports have revealed that such seats are difficult to sell due to the high price.

It was in the early morning. I thought the attendants, would serve me with breakfast, or at least water. But instead a middle-aged male attendant checked my ticket again. I asked about breakfast and he replied it would be offered soon.

Half hour later, an attendant came asking whether I needed something from trolley he was pushing. When I asked whether I need to pay, he nodded. I became annoyed, questioning him when the free breakfast and water would be served. He replied: very soon. In the middle of the three-hour journey, another male attendant came in with a bottle of water and a pack of cookies, instead of a formal breakfast. I was disappointed.

When I was college student traveling between Sichuan and Beijing twenty years ago, taking crowded trains in the summer and winter holidays were nightmares. They were dirty, slow and noisy. And of course, it was hard to get a seat and, on many occasions, we had to stand on foot on such long journey, which took more than 30 hours from Chengdu to Beijing. The service on the train was really terrible in those years.

I had hoped it would be improved on the bullet trains. Maybe my experience is uncommon, but while it was undoubtedly quicker, I don't think mine was value for money.

I experienced the first-class ticket service on a Eurostar train from Brussels to London. The meal, with starter, main course, desert, coffee, tea, is free. The newspaper and magazine are free. And it even offered a taxi booking services on board. Such a journey was memorable, comparable to traveling business class on a flight.

Europe has only 6,000 km of high-speed railways, less than half that of China's high-speed rail network. Premier Li said in the annual work report last week, that China will maintain the momentum, aiming to invest 800 billion yuan ($130 billion) to construct more than 8,000 km of railways in 2015.

While the hardware is undoubtedly excellent, China needs to improve the quality of service on the trains if this sector wants to stand out in competing with the airlines.

The author is deputy chief of China Daily EuropeanUnion Bureau.


Editor's picks
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349