Train Travelogue – 2016

Dr David Feng summmarised his decade-long research into China’s HSR network, and how it can connect […] Asia and Europe together. He also remarked that the new generation of Chinese HSR and its standards make it as big a player as existing HSR in Europe.
iHuawen (01 July 2016; Mandarin Chinese report)

DAVID FENG’S 2016 TRAIN TRAVELOGUE

  • National or territorial/regional rail networks: China Mainland (Baiyangdian, Baoding, Bazhou, Beijing, Dangshan, Guiyang, Hangzhou, Kunming, Ji’nan, Qingdao, Shanghai, Tianjin, Xuzhou, Wuxi, Yongcheng, Zhengzhou), Denmark (Copenhagen), France (Lille), Ireland (Dublin), Sweden (Malmö), Switzerland (Arth-Goldau, Biasca, Bodio, Erstfeld, Rynächt, Zürich), United Kingdom (Belfast, Bushey, Colchester, Doncaster, Hertford, London, Oxford, Peterborough, Potters Bar, Sheffield, Stevenage, Watford, Welwyn Garden City)
  • Metro/tram networks: China Mainland (Beijing Subway, Shanghai Metro, Tianjin Metro), Denmark (Copenhagen Metro), France (Lille Metro), Hong Kong (MTR), Switzerland (Zürich trams), United Kingdom (London Underground + DLR and Tramlink, Sheffield Supertram)
  • National/territorial/regional rail mileage this year: Sorry, still being calculated

The Swiss people voted for a high speed rail link connecting northern and southern Switzerland in the 1990s. It took 17 years for the whole tunnel to come to fruition — finally becoming reality in June 2016, with regular services commencing 11 December 2016.

David and wife Tracy joined friends in Switzerland for the unique “public beta”, which took place both on 04 & 05 June 2016. They boarded from two one-time-only temporary stops, one in Rynächt, and the other just north of Biasca. The tunnel ride took around 20 minutes as planned.

This being the longest rail tunnel in the world, it made its way into David’s travelogue. In the same month, June 2016, David would also travel on the longest rail bridge in the world.

Just as famous and a sight as the Gotthard Base Tunnel is the Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway. In June 2016, David travelled on both the world’s longest railway tunnel in Switzerland, and on the world’s longest railway bridge on the Beijing-Shanghai HSR — 164 km.

This trip took place on the same day that the very same high speed railway line celebrated its 5th year in service. David was interviewed by national media both at Beijing South Railway Station and on the high speed train itself. He also celebrated the trip by being part of a special event held in the dining car of Train G13, which departed just 24 hours after David was “stamped in” to China after leaving the British Airways plane that carried him back to Beijing.

In Ji’nan, David met rail crew; and in Xuzhou, David launched the station’s first bilingual info page on the WeChat account. Both were to commemorate the highly important line at 5.

One of the highlights of this year was an increase in international rail travel. David completed journeys between the UK and France on the Eurostar, between Denmark and Sweden on the Øresund Train and Sweden’s SJ, and between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland on the Enterprise. He managed to complete journeys on almost all of Great Britain’s train operating companies, as well as Translink (Northern Ireland) and Irish Railways. This gave him a much better understanding of the railway system of the British Isles. He also was one of the first passengers at the reopened Lea Bridge station.

In June 2016, David left with wife Tracy the UK and returned to Beijing. Within 24 hours of being “stamped in” back to China, both left Beijing South Railway Station onboard a special train celebrating 5 years of the Beijing-Shanghai HSR.

David was one of the passengers onboard one of the first trains to run on the new Xuzhou-Zhengzhou HSR, opened on 10 September 2016, and capped it off with a year-end trip on the new Kunming-Guizhou part of the Shanghai-Kunming HSR, which opened to traffic on 28 December 2016.

He also continued livetweeting his journeys using Twitter hashtag #ChinaRailLive. His frequent tweets landed him much attention, including a FaceTime interview onboard Train G200 with the BBC’s Outside Source.

In a novel innovation, David started making full use of Twitter and particularly Periscope to livecast his many visits to railway stations and onboard trains. After two successful trials in eastern China, the livecasts went live “for real” for the opening of the Shanghai-Kunming HSR, when that line opened up in full.

His trips this year also took him to stations on the Tianjin-Baoding HSR, as well as all stations on the Tianjin-Binhai Intercity Railway, where he loved the new Yujiapu station. Other destinations reached by high speed rail included the cities of Cangzhou, Hangzhou, Langfang, Qinhuangdao, and Shanghai. Regular rail-wise, he was at the historic Qinghuayuan station before the station exited service altogether.

Throughout the year, he remained active with his Everyday Rail English lessons, which would take him to station and train crew in Ji’nan, Qingdao, Wuxi, Xuzhou, but also closer to home in Beijing. Amongst some of the new stations to apply the new standards included all Beijing-Shanghai HSR stations from Ji’nan West to Zaozhuang, as well as Xuzhou East, Qingdao, and progressively, Beijing South.

David completed an epic milestone of travelling and actually using all stations on the London Underground and the DLR. As well as riding the Copenhagen and Lille Metro systems, he also travelled on the Shanghai Metro’s Line 16, that very one which offers both express and regular services.

Tianjin added a new Line 6 to the network, with partial, part-time services starting in summer 2016. David travelled on the new line, which would be extended further in late 2016.

Beijing is expanding its Subway system so that it approaches that 1,000 km mark. Throughout 2016, David continued to follow closely new lines due to open shortly. These included the Mentougou Maglev, the Yanfang Line, and the Western Suburbs Tram. He took plenty of pictures to follow the lines as they “grew up”.

David’s final trip for 2016 was on Beijing Subway Line 16, the first Subway line using 8 wide-body cars per trainset, carrying more people. The new line initially ran from Xiyuan interchange with Line 4 to Bei’anhe in the NW suburbs.

As 2016 drew to a close, David also neared the first full decade of nonstop train and metro travel. A tradition that had started in Switzerland was revived in Beijing, first underground, then at speeds over 300 km/h on 01 August 2008.

In a much better state and armed with more knowledge, David will start the next 10 years with even more destinations across more cities, countries, and continents. He plans to continue “exploring the world from a train carriage”.