Increases aim to defray costs, ease peak loads in China's railway network
Ticket prices for some bullet trains traveling in China's southeastern coastal area will be adjusted from April 21, according to China Railway Corp.
The move will affect trains running at 200 to 250 kilometers per hour between Shanghai and Shenzhen, Guangdong province, two major economic hubs along the eastern coast, the State-owned railway operator said.
The 1,623-km Shanghai-Shenzhen link consists of three sections－Shanghai to Hangzhou; Hangzhou to Ningbo; and Ningbo to Shenzhen.
After the adjustment, some prices will increase, while others will be lowered, depending on the route and train a passenger takes, China Railway said.
Prices will go up by more than 50 percent for most first-class seats on bullet trains traveling on the 1,309-km section from Ningbo to Shenzhen, while prices for second-class seats on the route will climb by 16 to 20 percent. The prices for second-class seats from Shanghai to Hangzhou and from Hangzhou to Ningbo will rise by more than 10 percent.
For example, a second-class ticket between Shenzhen and Chaoshan now costs just under 90 yuan ($13). After the adjustment, tickets for this route will sell for 107, 102, 85 or 73 yuan, depending on the schedule.
Industry observers said the changes are aimed at using price adjustments to compensate the high construction and operational costs of China's vast high-speed railway network and to help mitigate rail transport peaks, as some price-sensitive passengers are expected to avoid some trains at peak periods because they will have the highest increase.
Last year, 818,000 journeys a day were made on the Shanghai-Shenzhen railway. On a typical day, there were 622 bullet trains operating at more than 80 percent occupancy on the route.
Despite the high-speed railway's popularity, many routes are still generating deficits, experts said, adding that this is because of the large infrastructure investment, high operational and maintenance costs, and the old regulations governing prices.
Currently, ticket prices for high-speed trains in the southeast coastal area follow the government regulation adopted in 1997, according to a railway industry source.
Sun Zhang, a professor at Tongji University's Institute of Rail Transit in Shanghai, told China Business Network that it is feasible for the southeast coastal region to test the price changes because the region is more economically developed, while high-income travelers and businesspeople from the region usually make fast and comfortable service their priority, and are less sensitive to price changes.