Opinion / Opinion Line

Let consumers decide how fast trains must run

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-13 07:57

Let consumers decide how fast trains must run

File photo shows attendants pose for a photo beside the models of a high speed train during the China High Speed Railway on Fast Track exhibition in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 13, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

He Huawu, chief engineer of China Railway Corp, said last week that high-speed trains can travel up to 350 kilometers an hour without facing any technological difficulty. But the question is: Is that economically viable? The railway authorities should also be careful not to increase the already high speed of trains just to raise their fares, said Zhang Guifeng, a guest commentator with Beijing Youth Daily, on Sunday.

That a senior CRC official said high-speed trains can run faster without any technological glitch shows that faster trains are essentially about economic feasibility, not safety concerns. It also indicates a fare hike in the near future on the pretext of running faster trains, for which the total maintenance cost could increase by one-third. Most high-speed trains in China run at about 300 km per hour as of now.

It is understandable that many people fear that they would be forced to pay one-third more to travel by high-speed trains, because the CRC has been granted the sole fare pricing authority.

In fact, few can afford a big increase in the already high ticket prices given that urban residents' per capita disposable income last year was less than 22,000 yuan ($3,352), around 60 yuan per day.

In comparison, high-speed train passengers have to pay at least 54.5 yuan for a half an hour journey between Beijing and Tianjin, a distance of just 122 km.

Besides, the CRC still monopolizes the country's railway system in many aspects. Such being said, a disputable fare hike-based on the convenient excuse of "faster trains"-would only consolidate CRC's long-existing monopoly instead of introducing fair market competition.

As for passengers traveling by high-speed trains, they should not say no to faster and safer train services. But they should know better service comes with higher price and stay alert against any speculative attempts to raise train fares.

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