Replying to four lawyers, the National Development and Reform Commission said recently that since the number of passengers on the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway is still growing, the costs of operation and depreciation cannot be accurately determined, and hence fares cannot be adjusted. But irrespective of the lawyers' accusations, the railways should hold a public hearing on high-speed train fares, which are indeed very high, says an article in Xinhua Daily Telegraph. Excerpts:
When the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, the nation's first high-speed railway (HSR), began operating in August 2008, questions were raised on whether "the fares were too high for the common people to afford". The Ministry of Railways had then promised to fix ticket prices after a "one-year trial run" and after holding public hearings. Nearly two years have passed since then but the authorities still refuse to adjust the fares. Does this mean the "high fares" will not change in near future?
To determine whether the fares were high, four lawyers of Zhong Yin Law Firm, Dong Zhengwei, Bai Pingliang, Chen Dong and Liang Huiqing, conducted a study based on the fares, quality of service and passenger flow. They found that even if 29 yuan was charged for the one-way HSR journey, the railway could make a profit and recover the expenses before the scheduled time.
In Japan, the fare for a Tokyo-Osaka journey that covers 515 km is 14,050 yen, or about 0.3 percent of the country's per capita annual income. In the Republic of Korea, high-speed railway journeys cost just 1.34 times that of ordinary railway and about 63 to 72 percent of airline fares. In contrast, the 490-yuan fare for the Wuhan-Guangzhou ride is equal to nearly 3 percent of China's per capita urban annual income.
China's railway authorities should hold the long-promised hearing and fix the high-speed railway fares on the basis of the average income of country's citizens sooner rather than later.
(China Daily 05/24/2010 page9)