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High ticket prices put brakes on bullet trains


(Shanghai Daily)The arrival of China's bullet trains has been accompanied by much fanfare.

However, public reaction has been disappointing, with pre-sale tickets hardly in hot demand.

The Ministry of Railways is now considering cutting ticket prices for the services, which begin tomorrow.

The bullet trains promise to reduce journey times by an average of two hours between major cities with speeds of 200 to 250 kilometers per hour.

But fares were 50 percent higher than the current express trains because of "greater costs, faster speed and better services," said Wang Yongping, a ministry spokesman.

Tickets for the bullet trains went on sale over the weekend but faced a cold reception in some cities, including Beijing, because of the prices.

"We have noticed the public opinion about the ticket prices and will consider slashing prices on the basis of market conditions in the future," said Wang.

The ministry has been criticized by sections of the Chinese media for the higher prices.

The ministry is also under fire for setting the higher prices without a public hearing.

The first-class fare for the high-speed train from Beijing to Tianjin is 51 yuan (US$6.37). A second-class seat costs 42 yuan, even higher than the 40-yuan sleeper ticket, which used to be the most expensive ticket on this route.

The ticket prices for the new train from Beijing to Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan Province, is more than double that of a hard seat on an ordinary train.

According to China's price law, an adjustment in the fares of public utilities should be subject to a public hearing and an approval from the State Council.

A Chinese newspaper said the ministry also didn't release the operating cost of the high-speed trains or spell out the reasons for a higher price.

But the ministry said there was no need to hold a public hearing as the seats on the high-speed trains are priced based on a policy issued by the National Development and Reform Commission in 1997.

And the policy is still effective, according to a Website run by the Xinmin Evening News.

The made-in-China bullet-shaped trains can reach speeds up to 250 kilometers per hour. The trains now in use go between 120 and 160kph.

The Shanghai Railway Administration will put 38 bullet trains on its tracks from tomorrow. Thirty-six of them will run out of city-based stations, and two will be added to the Hangzhou-Nanchang run.

From:   2007-04-17 10:05

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Editor: Zhang Jialu
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