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The Jinghu (Beijing-Shanghai) High Speed Rail thread

The Jinghu (Beijing-Shanghai) High Speed Rail thread

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Old Aug 21, 18, 7:15 pm   -   Wikipost
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I started this thread almost exactly 7 years ago. Not a lot has changed since then, but I think a wikipost is now justified:
-Jing refers to Beijing and Hu refers to Shanghai
-the smaller cities in the middle derive the greatest economic benefit from the service
-air fares have dropped a lot during the course of the past 7 years, and the delay situation has improved quite a bit, so I usually fly these days
-single digit trains tend to stop only in Nanjing, double digit trains stop in Nanjing and Jinan, and triple digit trains have up to 7 station stops.
-the vast majority of trains terminate at Shanghai Hongqiao, which isn't convenient for many people, but Shanghai Station service has recently been launched
-if you have a few days advance on your hands, buy tickets locally; in addition to being a little cheaper, this spares the need for will call
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Old Aug 23, 11, 12:06 am
  #1  
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The Jinghu (Beijing-Shanghai) High Speed Rail thread

As most of the forum regulars know, I travel between BJ and SH weekly, and have migrated towards the high speed trains. While some people like to claim that airplane tickets are on par with train tickets in terms of price, they are mistaken (at least, as of now). You see, the train costs y555, while airplane tickets are typically twice as much (the y200 in taxes kills the deal in most cases).

My personal goal is to optimize the entire process with respect to the needs of people like us.

Here goes:

1) buying tickets

Trains do sell out, but if you book a day or two in advance, you can usually nab the train of your choice. Tickets are easy to snag in Shanghai, and possibly in Beijing, as well (I'm down the Beijing kiosk scene, due to a single bad experience). Bring a copy of your passport. There are also a few online channels that sell tickets, assuming you have access to a Chinese credit card.

2) going to the train station

For me, one of the main advantages of the train over the train is the ability to show up at t-1 and still make it. Furthermore, train stations are terrible places to hang around. So, I shoot for t-20 arrivals.

3) food

The food on the G trains is really bad. I'm still struggling with approaches to this problem. For now, I would suggest getting a quality "to go" product close to your origin. I'm thinking along the lines of a "Grandma's Kitchen" Chicken Caesar Salad.

4) on the train

I've done 2nd class and 1st class, but never business. I prefer the dining car to both of the two classes that I've tried. While I'm unlikely to sleep in it, it is spacious and has an "office type" feel. On my trip down to SH last week, I met a guy who had purchased one of those business class tickets, and he told me that the only food on offer up there was peanuts.

5) internet

As I've noted in some of the other train threads, the 3g modem I employ most often when traveling is nearly useless at speeds greater than 150 kph. However, I noticed yesterday that many people were able to successfully connect to the internet. I can only assume that they were using better service providers and/or more modern modems than me. Assuming this thread gets decent traction, I'm guessing that's only a matter of time before we figure out some reliable options on this front.

6) leaving the train station

Since an enormous volume of people passes through both BJ South and SH Hongqiao (remember, the latter is attached to a very busy airport, as well), leaving the train station is arguably the single most unpleasant part of the train experience. Since taxi queues tend to be painfully long (and unpleasant; in BJ, it is located in a parking garage), I usually avail of other options. In Shanghai, the subway is quite useful because lines 2 and 10 can get the vast majority of FTers close to our final destinations without the need to transfer. And, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Line 10 isn't very popular yet (this is a good thing).

BJ South Station is only served by Line 4. While beneficial to people who stay in Xicheng or Haidian, this isn't so helpful for those of us on the east side of town.

Moving on, assuming you've already crossed the taxi queue and subway options off your list, I believe it is necessary to go to the departures level (upstairs) in order to get a car. In SH, you want the south exit, and in BJ, the north exit. You can arrange a car in advance, hope to catch a taxi that is offloading other people, or go with a tout. While many people dislike the latter option, if your Chinese is decent and you know your stuff, it can be a useful resource imo.

7) train numbers

The single digit trains stop in NJ only, while the double digit trains stop in NJ and Ji'nan. The triple digit trains make ~7 station stops, NJ, Jinan and a few other smaller cities.

8) stations served

0.000 Beijing South

59.500 Langfang

131.400 Tianjin South

219.270 Cangzhou West

327.980 Dezhou East

419.445 Jinan West

462.730 Taian

533.165 Qufu East

589.175 Tengzhou East

625.280 Zaozhuang

688.700 Xuzhou East

756.220 Suzhou East

844.380 Bengbu South

959.390 Chuzhou

1018.600 Nanjing South

1083.713 Zhenjiang South

1111.850 Danyang North

1144.760 Changzhou North

1201.160 Wuxi East

1227.970 Suzhou North

1259.320 Kunshan South

1302.890 Shanghai Hongqiao
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Last edited by moondog; Aug 23, 11 at 5:41 pm
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Old Aug 23, 11, 1:02 am
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
As most of the forum regulars know, I travel between BJ and SH weekly, and have migrated towards the high speed trains. While some people like to claim that airplane tickets are on par with train tickets in terms of price, they are mistaken (at least, as of now). You see, the train costs y555, while airplane tickets are typically twice as much (the y200 in taxes kills the deal in most cases).

My personal goal is to optimize the entire process with respect to the needs of people like us.
Excellent thread and could be expanded also to include the SH - NJ corridor, IMHO.

3) food

The food on the G trains is really bad. I'm still struggling with approaches to this problem. For now, I would suggest getting a quality "to go" product close to your origin. I'm thinking along the lines of a "Grandma's Kitchen" Chicken Caesar Salad.
As Xintiandi is directly connected to Honqgiao stn via line 10. how about arranging a deli box there in advance? Some more quality oriented places like Luna should be able to do this? At Honqgiao, the arrivals level downstairs features more variety and better food & beverage brands than upstairs after security.


Since an enormous volume of people passes through both BJ South and SH Hongqiao (remember, the latter is attached to a very busy airport, as well), leaving the train station is arguably the single most unpleasant part of the train experience. Since taxi queues tend to be painfully long (and unpleasant; in BJ, it is located in a parking garage), I usually avail of other options. In Shanghai, the subway is quite useful because lines 2 and 10 can get the vast majority of FTers close to our final destinations without the need to transfer. And, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Line 10 isn't very popular yet (this is a good thing).
At Honqgiao, please also consider heading over to SHA T2 arrivals to catch a cab. Considerably less queues than at the monstrous train station. And agreed on the benefits of using line 10. Would recommed all readers to study the station map of that line to determine if it's useful to you.
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Old Aug 23, 11, 1:08 am
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Originally Posted by mosburger View Post
Excellent thread and could be expanded also to include the SH - NJ corridor, IMHO.
It already does (same tracks, same trains). OP updated to include all station stops except for Tianjin West (spur line).

Last edited by moondog; Aug 23, 11 at 5:40 pm
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Old Aug 23, 11, 4:11 am
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
1) buying tickets

Trains do sell out, but if you book a day two in advance, you can usually nab the train of your choice. Tickets are easy to snag in Shanghai, and possibly in Beijing, as well (I'm down the Beijing kiosk scene, due to a single bad experience). Bring a copy of your passport. There are also a few online channels that sell tickets, assuming you have access to a Chinese credit card.
After my experience today (sitting on G3 back to SH right now), I'm officially in love with 12306.cn. I booked my ticket yesterday morning and was able to arrive at 13:40 today for my 14:00 train. If you tell one of the wandering agents near the ticket windows that you are picking up a ticket you bought online, they'll direct you to queue jump at one of the windows, which I later noticed is specially marked for pickup of prepaid tickets (but that everyone else uses anyway). Actual pickup took about 30 seconds; just slide your ID under the window and tell them your reservation number (which the site will text to your mobile).

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
3) food

The food on the G trains is really bad. I'm still struggling with approaches to this problem. For now, I would suggest getting a quality "to go" product close to your origin. I'm thinking along the lines of a "Grandma's Kitchen" Chicken Caesar Salad.
I'd go with "downright inedible." Today, I had lunch at a wonderful Yunnan-style place with a friend (滇客滇来 at 潮阳门大方家胡同8号, if anyone is interested) and just had them package me up something extra for the train. This strategy of pre-train meal + takeaway strikes me as a passable future option.

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
5) internet

As I've noted in some of the other train threads, the 3g modem I use most often when traveling is nearly useless at speeds greater than 150 kph. However, I noticed yesterday that many people were able to successfully connect to the internet. I can only assume that they were using better service providers than me and/or more modern modems. Assuming this thread gets decent traction, I'm guessing that's only a matter of time before we figure out some reliable options on this front.
Unfortunately, I've also been having problems tethering my Galaxy S II on Unicom. As usual, the phone has shown a solid 3G connection almost the entire time, but in practice has difficulty connecting to anything (likely because of jumping towers so often). If you keep trying eventually things will load, but it's truly infuriating. Of course, this is hardly limited to the CRH trains; the same thing happens on the shinkansen in Japan.

Wasn't there supposed to be on-board Wi-Fi? I swear I remember reading this in some of the PR for these trains months ago...

On another note, these things seem to have sped up again sometime in the last week or so: this one is averaging between 300 and 310km/h.
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Old Aug 23, 11, 6:29 pm
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Originally Posted by mosburger View Post
As Xintiandi is directly connected to Honqgiao stn via line 10. how about arranging a deli box there in advance? Some more quality oriented places like Luna should be able to do this? At Honqgiao, the arrivals level downstairs features more variety and better food & beverage brands than upstairs after security.
Apart from the fact that I rarely depart from Xintiandi, whenever traffic is a notch below "insane", I prefer to take taxis to the train station because:

1) I'm saving the paying party a decent chunk of coin, by simply taking the train
2) taxis are more comfortable than subways
3) I realize that I might be forced to inject myself into a packed subway car upon arrival

Building upon point #3 here and point #6 in the OP, this "leaving the train station" element is the single weakest link in the process (more so in BJ than in SH).

For me, the "hope for a taxi, and be prepared for a tout" strategy is optimal. While the touts charge a 50% premium over taxi (post negotiation) and tend to drive awful cars, I have no problem with their premium... time is money!

As for those of you who don't know how to deal with touts, I advise arranging a private driver. Sure, this will cost you ~y100, but again... time is money!

Last edited by moondog; Aug 23, 11 at 9:04 pm
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Old Sep 16, 11, 1:30 pm
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More thoughts on optimizing SH-BJ pm train experience

I picked up a few more random pieces of knowledge during my trip from Shanghai to Beijing this afternoon. While none of this stuff is super important, I feel obligated to post because I aspire to nail the entire process over time (work in progress).

I ended up on G18 (the 3p departure) again for the second time during the course of the past month because G4 (the 2p train that stops in Nanjing only) was sold out.

This time, I also left the office at 2:20p, but I decided to take the #2 subway (from Jing'an Temple) instead of the taxi. This was my first time taking the subway to the train station (I always use it from the train station).

With a travel time of 24 minutes, the subway is probably (a little) faster than the taxi on average, and it's hard not to like the price. But, I learned a valuable lesson today. If you exit the subway and go towards the C/D area, you'll end up at the security entrance near track 30 (east side of the station, iirc). If you arrive by taxi, you have a few more options, including an entrance in the middle.

Since G18 departs from track 1 (only two data points, but since it's been printed on my ticket both times, I'm inclined to conclude that this is a regular thing), I had to do a full on sprint for --what seemed like-- half a mile in order to make it with 1 minute to spare.

Moral to story: If you want to take the subway in to the train station in Shanghai, it would be wise to select a train that departs from gate ~24+, especially if you like cutting things close (which, is totally doable, assuming proper planning; the security check takes 2 minutes, max).

A hidden benefit of the double-digit G trains that I now realize is that, while they might be sold out, since the route is broken up into 3 legs, there always seem to be large groups of empty seats during specific portions of the journey. The Nanjing-Jinan stretch (the longest of the 3), in particular, seems to be quite good in this regard. Today, there were lots of empty 1st class seats (I wouldn't dare poach a business class seat, due to the substantial price differential in the event I was asked to pay up), plus numerous empty banks of 3 seats in 2nd class (decent napping conditions, even for relatively tall people). I still recommend the dining car strategy, on the whole, but only if you're not tired.

From what I can ascertain, all of the afternoon trains ex-Shanghai are served by Beijing crews (and vv, in the case of ex-Beijing). Frankly, I prefer the Shanghai crews (purple uniforms), not because they are nicer people (both stations staff from all over China), but because I feel they are better managed. That having been said, since I rarely have the option of leaving town at 9a (and, if I did, I'd probably leave on Thursday night, anyway), I seem to be stuck with Beijing based trains (the beginning of the week is a different story because I often head down on Sunday evenings).

Moving on to arrival in Beijing, I'm increasingly learning that it's possible to reduce the (extremely) uncomfortable portion of this experience to a mere 3 minutes.

Here's the drill:

1) arrange a driver or get a friend to pick you up, possibly in a taxi
2) the optimal meeting point is the north entrance (北进口, in an enormous font)
-since the taxi driver who picked me up today (not Mr. Zhou) was completely clueless, it might be useful to clarify this location in advance
-the area in question is NOT busy during the evenings because it is intended for drop-offs, so cars can wait there without being harrassed
-that having been said, in light of the fact that trains are usually on time to the minute, I like to optimize things for the sake of both me and the driver, and arrival time +8 minutes seems to work quite well
3) get yourself from the train to the meeting point in 8 minutes or less; this is actually quite easy (I can, now, pull it off in 5 minutes without walking especially fast); just follow the signs
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Old Sep 17, 11, 5:11 pm
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
Here's the drill:

1) arrange a driver or get a friend to pick you up, possibly in a taxi
Did you end up getting your licence? If so a rental car is also an option.
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Old Sep 17, 11, 5:56 pm
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Originally Posted by tauphi View Post
Did you end up getting your licence? If so a rental car is also an option.
No; I put that project on hold. Incidentally, since I now have less than 3 months remaining on my visa, I'm eligable for the instant y10 license.

But, all that matters not because renting a car would: 1) suck up valuable time; and 2) leave me with a head ache... need to return it at some point.

For me, this 6-hour door-to-door thing is important because it puts the train in the same ballpark as the airplane (4.5 hours is attainable when the stars are aligned, but 5.5 hours is considered excellent).

Back on topic, the departures level strategy is a complete no brainer. Look at it this way: upon arrival, you're in the company of 3,000-20,000 other people downstairs. By contrast, upstairs at the north entrance, things are quite peaceful. It's not necessary to prearrange transportation because the supply of touts exceeds demand; starting price (to CBD) is ~150, but 50-60 is obtainable if you don't mind riding in a crappy car.
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Old Sep 17, 11, 6:03 pm
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[QUOTE=moondog;17127006]No; I put that project on hold. Incidentally, since I now have less than 3 months remaining on my visa, I'm eligable for the instant y10 license. QUOTE]

I was waiting. I remember a post you made months ago about doing a report on renting a car and driving the outskirts of Beijing.

Since that didn't happen, need an updated report of a foreigner driving around in a top down Lambo or Ferrari in the city.
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Old Sep 17, 11, 6:25 pm
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I'm just going to randomly put this on here...because I just remembered how terrible it is. Tianjin South Station. It is so inconvenient to Tianjin and is at least a 45 minute ride to any hotel in the city centre. If Tianjin is in your plans, head for the main station or the new West Station which is linked by subway.
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Old Sep 19, 11, 2:07 am
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
But, all that matters not because renting a car would: 1) suck up valuable time; and 2) leave me with a head ache... need to return it at some point.
1hai.cn claims to be able to collect the car at your address.
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Old Sep 19, 11, 4:16 am
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Originally Posted by tauphi View Post
1hai.cn claims to be able to collect the car at your address.
That's all well and good, but I would still need to actually get the car in the first place. I'd much rather pay y100 to have a driver meet me at the north entrance.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 10:23 am
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I got to Beijing South a few minutes earlier than usual this morning, so I did some recon on dining options.

This not comprehensive because I didn't walk the entire station, but here's a summary of my findings:

-three KFCs
-a Ramen place (downstairs)
-SPR Coffee (downstairs); I dislike coffee, but my friend said it wasn't very good
-UBC Coffee (inside "secure"<ha ha!> area); overpriced
-McCafe (ditto); I didn't go inside, but it appeared to be much larger than the typical McCafe
-BK

We ended up going with KFC; don't be shy of ordering a lot of stuff because 5 hours without food on the train is a long time.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 11:04 am
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
I got to Beijing South a few minutes earlier than usual this morning, so I did some recon on dining options.

This not comprehensive because I didn't walk the entire station, but here's a summary of my findings:

-three KFCs
-a Ramen place (downstairs)
-SPR Coffee (downstairs); I dislike coffee, but my friend said it wasn't very good
-UBC Coffee (inside "secure"<ha ha!> area); overpriced
-McCafe (ditto); I didn't go inside, but it appeared to be much larger than the typical McCafe
-BK

We ended up going with KFC; don't be shy of ordering a lot of stuff because 5 hours without food on the train is a long time.

Cold beer yet?
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Old Mar 19, 12, 12:17 pm
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Originally Posted by anacapamalibu View Post
Cold beer yet?
I can't be positive because it was 830a, but both UBC and SPR had beer in displays that appeared to be refrigerated.

However, as much as I appreciate the fact that I now know that I can reliably score KFC at BJ S, I am an reinforced in my belief that both BJ S and SHA were extremely poorly thought out from a retail perspective. In the case of the latter, I am hard pressed to think of a more utilized transportation hub in the entire world that is so poorly tenanted.
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