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Passenger rail transport in China

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Title: Passenger rail transport in China  
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Passenger rail transport in China

Passenger trains in Shanghai

Passenger rail transport is one of the principal means of transport in the People's Republic of China, with rail passenger traffic exceeding 1.86 billion railway trips in 2011.[1] It is operated by the China Railway Corporation(CR). The Spring Festival Travel Season is the peak railway travel season of the year.

China is currently redeveloping its entire railway network to produce a modern high-speed network. China is on course to complete its 18,000 km national high-speed rail network by 2015.[2]


  • Passenger train classes and route identifiers 1
    • Classes 1.1
  • Accommodation and fares 2
  • E-tickets and Internet ticket purchase 3
    • Check-in 3.1
      • ID Card 3.1.1
      • Paper ticket 3.1.2
      • Changes and refunds 3.1.3
  • Combined transport 4
    • Guangzhou-Kowloon 4.1
    • International combined transportation 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Passenger train classes and route identifiers

An electronic display board at Shanghai south railway station with a list of departures
Ticket offices usually have display board showing availability of tickets on various trains in various classes, for a few days ahead. At the moment, the board shows data for a few K, L, and "general" trains. The great majority of seats available are in "hard seat" (often, "no seat", 无座) category

Every train route has an identification number of two to five characters arranged by the Ministry of Railways. The first character can be alphabetic or numeric, while the second to fifth characters are all numeric.

Trains are classified as up trains or down trains. Since Beijing is seen as the centre of the network, the train from Beijing is the down service, while the train towards Beijing is the up service. Trains that do not go to Beijing are designated up or down based on the railway they are traveling on. Railways that do not go to Beijing are up or down based on whether they are going in the direction that goes towards or away from Beijing. Train routes that change from up service to down service while traveling in a certain direction might use two different route numbers. For example a train from Qingdao to Xian begins as up service as it travels approaching Beijing and changes to down service when it reaches the point where its travel is away from Beijing all the while travelling westerly.

Down trains use odd numbers, while up trains use even numbers. For example, the T103 travels from Beijing to Shanghai, and the K9008 travels from Shenzhen to Yueyang

Some examples of double or triple train numbers that switch up and down during their route


The first character of the route identifier indicates the class of the passenger train, often determined by the speed and the relative number of stops the train makes along the way.

As the Rule of The Edit and Management of Train Timetable, a rule issued by Ministry of Railway, the arrangement of following passenger train classes was put into practice from April 1, 2009.

G ("Gaosu"; High Speed EMU)

This is a series for long-distance high-speed trains. G1–G5998 is used for the trains that run in more than one railway bureau's territory, while G6001–G9998 is used for the trains that run in only one railway bureau's territory.

C ("Chengji"; Intercity EMU Train)

This series has become available after August 1, 2008 with the opening of Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Rail. It represents the EMU trains with shorter travel distances, and mainly running within one railway bureau. The top speed is 350 km/h. C1–C1998 for the trains running through two or more railway bureaus, C2001–C9998 for the trains running within one railway bureau.

D ("Dongche"; EMU Train)

This series has become available after the sixth rise in speed of the railway on April 18, 2007. The top speed will be 250 km/h. These trains are powered using CRH series electric multiple units (EMUs) named "Harmony" (Chinese:和谐号, Hexiehao). D1–D3998 for the trains running through two or more railway bureaus, D4001–D9998 for the trains running within one railway bureau.

As of 2009, D-series trains provide fast frequent service between main cities in China. For example:

Besides, a few other nighttime D trains go to more remote destinations, such as the services between Shanghai and Beijing.

Z ("Zhida"; Direct Express)

Though its name in Chinese (Chinese: 直达; pinyin: Zhida) technically implies a "non-stop" overnight train, some of these trains have several stops between the two stations. The majority have both soft sleepers and hard sleepers, while some Z trains have only soft sleepers. The top speed is 160 km/h. It uses the numbers Z1-Z9998 without regard to the number of railway bureaus entered.

This series became available after the fifth rise in speed of the railway on April 18, 2004. Early on (2004–2006), all but one of the Z-series trains had either Beijing or Beijing West station as their destination or origin. As of 2009, Z-series trains also operated along the Yangtze Valley as well, providing overnight service from Wuhan to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo and Shenzhen.

An express train running between Harbin and Dalian
T ("Tekuai"; Express)

This series of trains have a limited number of stops along their routes, only in major cities, or in some instances stops for switching the driver or locomotive. The top speed is 140 km/h. T1–T4998 for the trains running through two or more railway bureaus, T5001–T9998 for the trains running within one railway bureau. The standard pronunciation on the railway system is "Te"() in Chinese.

K ("Kuaisu"; Fast)

This series of trains stop at more stations than T-series. The top speed is 120 km/h. The standard pronunciation on the railway system is "Kuai"() in Chinese. K1–K6998 are used for the trains that run in more than one railway bureau, while K7001 to K9998 will be used for the trains that run in only one railway bureau.

After April 18, 2004, N-series trains, which represent fast trains travelling exclusively within one railway bureau, were derived from K-series. Then all K-series trains travel on lines operated by more than one railway bureau. After April 1, 2009, N-series was re-merged to K-series after April 1, 2009.

An air-conditioned General Fast Train from Chengdu to Ürümqi West
General Fast Train

General fast trains (普通旅客快车, which can be shortened to 普快, Pukuai) are slower passenger trains that stop at around half of the stations along the way, resulting in a longer travel time than the fast trains. The top speed is 120 km/h. Route numbers are always four numeric digits—a numeric prefix from 1-5 followed by a 3-digit route number. Numbers 1001–1998 for the trains running through three or more railway bureaus, 2001–3998 for the trains running through two railway bureaus, and 4001–5998 for the trains that run in only one railway bureau.

General Train

The general train (普通旅客列车, which can be shortened to 普客, Puke) has as many stops as possible, and is often the preferred choice for rural workers to visit their home villages because of low ticket price. This is the slowest type of train and has the lowest priority in the Fixed Train Timetable (图定列车). The top speed is 100 km/h.

Route identifiers for general trains are always 4 digits—a numeric prefix from 6-7 followed by a 3-digit route number. 6001–6198 are used for the trains that run in more than one railway bureau, while 7001–7598 will be used for the trains that run in only one railway bureau.

Commuter Train

The Commuter Train (通勤列车), is usually runs for railway staff, and generally their tickets are not available for passengers. Route identifiers for commuter trains are 4 digits with a range of 7601–8998.

L ("Linshi"; Temporary Train)

This series of trains are temporary—they are not listed in the official train schedule, but are added when necessary. Many of these trains only operate at peak passenger travel season such as during the spring festival period. In addition, many new train services are originally added as L-series before train schedules are readjusted and later become regular services. L1–L6998 are used for the temporary trains that run in more than one railway bureau, while L7001–L9998 will be used for the trains that run in only one railway bureau. The standard pronunciation on the railway system is "Lin"() in Chinese.

Y("Linshiluyou"; Temporary Tourist Train)

This series is mainly used for trains that run to popular sights, such as the S2 Line of Beijing Suburban Railway, which runs from Beijing North to Yanqing, and connects to the Great Wall. Besides, travel agencies can apply to the Ministry of Railways for organizing additional passenger trains for the tours.

Accommodation and fares

Trains at Yichang station. The orange two-level cars are hard-seat cars of a day train from Hankou
  • Business Class Seat (Chinese: 商务座), for all 16-carriage CRH380AL or CRH380BL trains. 3 seats per row (2+1). Lie-flat seats.
  • Premier Class Seat (Chinese: 特等座), used for some CRH3 and CRH380 trains. 3 seats per row (2+1) or compartment seats. Unlike Business Class seats, these seats are not lie-flat seats, but can in general recline.
  • First Class Seat (Chinese: 一等座; pinyin: Yīděngzuò), used for CRH series EMU trains. There are 4 seats per row (2+2), just similar as soft seat.
  • Second Class Seat (Chinese: 二等座; pinyin: èrděngzuò), used for CRH series EMU trains. Similar as hard seat, there are 5 seats per row (3+2), the sitting area is relatively small.
  • Hard seat (Chinese: 硬座; pinyin: Yìngzuò) is the basic fare, somewhat similar to the economy class on an airplane. On busier routes, passengers who cannot arrange for better seats because of overcrowding must also purchase this type of ticket. In some cases, tickets are sold with no seat assigned (无座, wu zuo), which allows the railway to sell more tickets than there are seats in the car. Still, even the number of "no seat" tickets offered for sale is limited, to keep overcrowding within limits.
  • Soft seat (Chinese: 软座; pinyin: Ruǎnzuò) is one level above the Hard Seat. There are 4 seats per row (2+2), so it has comfortable seating similar to business class on airplanes.
  • Hard sleeper (Chinese: 硬卧; pinyin: Yìngwò) is the basic accommodation for an overnight train. Despite the name, the bunks comfortably accommodate anyone below six feet. Bunks are arranged three on a side in a compartment—indicated by top, middle and bottom on the ticket. But there are no doors for the compartments.
  • Soft sleeper (Chinese: 软卧; pinyin: Ruǎnwò) contains a wider bunk bed in an enclosed cabin, two bunks to a side. There is more room for luggage storage than in hard sleeper. Occasionally there may be an entertainment system where movie channels are available for viewing through headphones and an LCD display for each bunk. Now some CRH series EMU trains also have soft sleepers, such as CRH1E and CRH2E.
  • Deluxe soft sleeper (Chinese: 高级软卧包厢 or Chinese: 高包; pinyin: Gāobāo) is the top level sleeper that is only provided by a few trains. The ticket is also much more expensive than that of soft sleeper. It only contains two beds in a cabin, and there is an independent toilet in every cabin, except for deluxe soft sleepers on CRH trains. Some of them have a shower cubicle in the car.

The fares are different between trains with or without air-conditioning.

The majority of train tickets in China are thermally printed paper tickets displaying the train's origin and destination, service number, price, date and travel time, accommodation type, class and seat number, as well as a barcode for security checks. Some tickets on the CRH routes such as Nanjing–Shanghai–Hangzhou or Guangzhou–Shenzhen use machine-readable tickets i.e. tickets on the Nanjing–Shanghai route have a magnetically encoded stripe for future use of automatic ticket inspection gates being implemented at major stations along the route, whilst tickets on the Guangzhou–Shenzhen line have embedded RFID microchips which can be read by proximity readers mounted above the ticket gates.

Most trains feature some kind of on-board catering service. Vendors with trolleys walk through the train selling snacks, drinks, fruit, newspapers etc. On shorter distance trains, there is a cafe-car selling light snacks, tea, coffee, beer etc. whilst long-haul trains have full service restaurant cars.

Smoking is generally not permitted in the accommodation or washroom areas of the trains but is allowed in the restaurant/cafe area and in the vestibules between the cars. On modern trains such as CRH or Beijing Suburban railway smoking is completely banned. On the Guangzhou–Kowloon cross-border train smoking is only permitted in the cafe car.

E-tickets and Internet ticket purchase

Since July 12, 2011, the e-ticket system has been adopted on Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway. From December 23, 2011 all tickets can be bought at the official ticket website except for trains due to depart in less than two hours.

Debit card and credit cards with the China Unionpay flag are accepted.

Identification of one of the following types is required:


ID Card

Applicable only to holders of a second-generation ID card: In lieu of the traditional paper ticket, passengers may swipe their cards to pass through automatic entry and exit gates at stations on the following routes:

Passengers checking in with their ID card may request a paper ticket within 31 days of completing their journey.

Paper ticket

Passengers without a second-generation ID card must collect paper tickets at the ticket windows of rail stations. The e-ticket number as well as proper identification of all passengers are required.

Tickets are checked at both departure and arrival stations.

Changes and refunds

Changes to online bookings can be made up to 2 hours before departure.

If within 2 hours of departure or already in possession of a paper ticket, passengers must make changes at the rail station.

Combined transport

Combined transportation trains allow passengers to remain on a single train during two routes, without transferring to a different train at the station where the route changes.


No. T97B/98B (BeijingKowloon) and No. T99B/100B (Shanghai-Kowloon) are combined transportation trains. Passengers can complete all formalities in their departure station, and no longer need to alight at Dongguan.

International combined transportation

Beijing–UlaanBaatar–Moscow International train

A few trains can transport passengers out of China to places such as Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, Moscow in Russia, Almaty in Kazakhstan, P'yŏngyang in North Korea, Hanoi in Vietnam and so on.

See also


  1. ^ Tony Jin (2012-12-27), China High Speed Train Development and Investment 
  2. ^

External links

  • Passenger train information online
  • Checking Train Schedules Online
  • China Academy of Railway Sciences
  • China Rail Passenger routes viewed in Google Maps with timetable (Chinese and English)
  • Official Ticket Website
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