Train Travelogue – 2008

So we made it. Into the thing that’s supposed to do 350 km/h, Beijing-Tianjin, 30 minutes, zippy fast, laser speed… vomit comet? (We picked that one off Twitter.) That’s the thing. See, the Harmony was designed with smoothness in mind… [it’s] extremely smooth to ride in.
CNReviews (August 2008; English feature, Tianjin in Thirty Minutes: The Beijing – Tianjin High-Speed Railway)

DAVID FENG’S 2008 TRAIN TRAVELOGUE

  • National rail networks: China (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin)
  • Metro/tram networks: China (Beijing Subway, Guangzhou Metro, Shanghai Metro, Tianjin Metro)
  • Mileage this year: Sorry, still being calculated

Changing between two entirely separate centrally-governed municipalities of China was a Long March in its own right — the 120 km (75 mi) between Beijing and Tianjin was fraught was surreal traffic jams — unnavigable by most, as David has seen on the motorway! A “good” trip would usually take upwards of 2 hours.

So when the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway opened on 01 August 2008, David Feng was fully “wowed” with “the works”. This included advanced new trains, airliner-like seating, a very well-designed Beijing South station, and an equally impressive Tianjin terminus. But the absolute showstopper were the Harmony (CRH) trains, reaching speeds up to 350 km/h (217 mph). On David’s maiden journey, the 17:35 C2209 service, the train reached a top speed of 348 km/h (215 mph). Switching between Beijing and Tianjin was now doable within 30 minutes.

To David, this felt like a trip to the 22nd century. He got hooked on these new speed demons, clocking in at least one rail journey for every month while resident in Beijing — a record which remains unbroken to this very day.

Closer to home, the year 2008 also saw the opening of Beijing Subway Line 10, which connected the Zhongguancun high-tech area to the Guomao CBD via the Olympic Green, and the Airport Express. Line 8, which went into the heart of the Olympic Green, was only really opened to all in October 2008, but as a Beijing 2008 Olympics spectator, David benefited from free travel on Line 8 and all city lines during his ticketed event day.

The highly successful Line 5 set the standards for these new lines: platform edge doors, improved bilingual signage, and an automated or improved “next train” countdown system. The full implementation of a closed pay area system in June 2008 meant that all ticketing would be smartcard-based (including improved Single Journey Tickets), not unlike any decent system in the West.

In April 2008, Beijing became the very first city where David visited every single Subway station — something that became increasingly difficult to master as the system exploded in size (only achieved once again in very late 2019!). Throughout 2008, he also travelled in metro systems in Tianjin, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.