UK & World News
China Opens World's Longest High-Speed Railway
The world's longest high speed rail route has opened in China, covering a distance of 1,427 miles (2,298km).
The first passenger train departed from Beijing in the north for Guangzhou on the country's southern coast at 9am local time, with another leaving an hour later.
The line carries new bullet-style trains at speeds of up to 220mph (350kph) and reduces the travel time from 22 hours to just eight hours.
There are 35 stops along the route in major cities spanning the length of the country including Shijiazhuang, capital of the northern Hebei Province; Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan; Wuhan, the capital of the central Hubei Province; and Changsha, in Hunan Province.
The building cost has not been revealed, but it was built in a fraction of the time it has taken to build the Crossrail system in London, which spans a distance - through new tunnels - of 13 miles (21km) and is not due for completion until 2017, and the new UK High Speed Two (HS2), which is still awaiting the construction green light.
But China does not have the planning regulations required for UK projects and there is not as much concern about the environmental considerations.
China currently has 5,350 miles (8,600km) of operating high-speed railway, more than any other nation in the world.
The plan is to extend the rail network to a staggering 9,950 miles (16,000km) of track by 2015.
The improved and expanded services have lured people away from the growing number of domestic airlines in China.
With the Chinese airline industry increasingly suffering from chronic delays because of congested airspace and bad weather, the train is seen by many as a more reliable and cheaper alternative.
In a statement, China's ministry of railways said: "This service marks a significant milestone of our high-speed rail construction.
"It will ease pressure on the rail transport between Beijing and Guangzhou, especially during the peak Chinese New Year holiday."
The new line will compete with the first domestic route used by the Airbus superjumbo, the A380.
China Southern Airlines has operated the double decker A380 between Beijing and Guangzhou for the past year.
The cost of a ticket is higher, but the journey time is just three hours.