You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Top Stories

China's high-speed railways have finally reached Hong Kong

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 27/09/2018 Fionnuala McHugh

a train is parked on the side of a building: China’s new high-speed stations are statement architecture - Nikada © istock China’s new high-speed stations are statement architecture - Nikada In 1997, when British jurisdiction of Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese, the mantra was “One country, two systems”. As of this week that’s no longer the case, certainly as far as the rail network is concerned. 

The visual proof is Hong Kong’s shiny new West Kowloon railway station, which at a cost of $10.7 billion (£8.1 billion) officially opened last Sunday, signalling the fact that for the first time, the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong is directly connected to China’s bullet train network.

a close up of a green field: High-speed trains in China are like something from The War of the Worlds straddling the countryside © istock High-speed trains in China are like something from The War of the Worlds straddling the countryside The train ride between Hong Kong and the mainland city of Guangzhou used to take two hours; on the new Vibrant Express it’s just 48 minutes. Beijing can be reached in nine hours rather than 24. 

Download the all-new Microsoft News app to receive up-to-the minute news from the world’s best sources – available now on iOS and Android

The auspiciously-numbered G80 train, leaves West Kowloon every morning at 8.05am and glides into Beijing at 5pm – further proof of how the key sights of China are increasingly reachable by high speed rail. 

I took the new train on Tuesday having booked a second-class ticket (HK$1,237/£120 one way) online. 

a train is parked on the side of a fence: For the first time, Hong Kong (pictured) is directly connected to China’s bullet train network © Provided by Telegraph Media Group Limited For the first time, Hong Kong (pictured) is directly connected to China’s bullet train network Much is made of the 44 mainland cities now within reach, although the majority of passengers are likely to use the station for trips within the Greater Bay Area, of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Second-class seat configuration is two plus three. They’re roomier than most economy aeroplane seats but not thickly padded; about halfway through the nine hours, my back felt a nostalgic twinge for the sleeper bunks on the 24-hour route.

A and F are the window seats and you won’t have to twitch aside the old lace curtains to gaze out of them. In fact, the entire high-speed route seems to pass through a slicker, tidier landscape. 

a tall building in a city: The exterior of the new West Kowloon railway station © istock The exterior of the new West Kowloon railway station Having taken the slower trains up to Beijing and Shanghai in the past, and seen people plucking vegetables grown a blade’s length beyond the wheels, this country of sound barriers and scything engines tells you much about modern China’s capability. 

Is it wrong to say that the G80 was a thrill? These trains have a business-like gleam, swallowing up the compass points from Changsha South and Zhengzhou East to Beijing West. 

a large long train on a track in the city: The journey between Hong Kong and Guangzhou (pictured) by train used to take two hours - now it’s a speedy 48 minutes. © GETTY The journey between Hong Kong and Guangzhou (pictured) by train used to take two hours - now it’s a speedy 48 minutes. When I first began traipsing about on China’s railways, I had difficulty spotting the names of stations to write in my notebook. (“Perhaps they don’t want you to know!” remarked a passenger when I moaned about the tiddly platform signs.) These days, China’s new high-speed stations don’t bother with the cloak of anonymity: they’re statement architecture, like something from The War of the Worlds straddling the countryside. 

a plane sitting on top of a building: A bullet train at Beijing station © istock A bullet train at Beijing station Every now and then I had to walk up and down the carriages to remind myself of China’s people – eating melon seeds, dandling babies, rubbing one another’s feet, snoring. But the human heart beats faster as the digital readout increases – 302km/h (188mph)! – and the coffee from the dining car barely trembles in your cup. 

a large crowd of people: Passengers at Guangzhou railway station © istock Passengers at Guangzhou railway station When I asked the woman next to me what made her choose the train, she simply said: “Something new”. And I couldn’t get a ticket back – the seats from Beijing were all booked with people coming south for the China National Day holidays.

For more on high speed rail travel in China, see telegraph.co.uk/tt-china-rail.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Telegraph

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon