China’s high speed rail network is killing the domestic air network

China’s prized high-speed trains are having an unintended effect on the airline industry. Given the recent drop in profits of the domestic airlines it is clearly visible that the high-speed trains are robbing the airlines of potential customer base growth.

With long delays becoming a norm for both international and domestic travel at the Chinese airports due to restrictive airspace access which is majorly controlled by the defense establishment, the high-speed trains have proven to be a big hit given the near perfect timings and high passenger capacity per train with lower travelling costs and comparable travel times. With a strong push from the top echelons of governance, the fast train network has rapidly grown from 0 to nearly 10,000 km in less than five years, and if it continues growing at the projected pace, it will well expand to over 19,000 kilometers come 2015. Not only is this kind of growth pace unheard of but it is just impossible to achieve without a strong government support. This truly demonstrates the strong infrastructure push that the government has made its priority to make sure rapid modernization across the country.
with its current occupancy of more than 2 million passengers a day and with speeds touching 300km/h it is no wonder that they have managed to capture almost double the market share of the air network.

Having traveled in Europe where the trains are usually highly expensive compared to flights and with countries like Britain and the US struggling to upgrade the train infrastructure, there are surely important lessons to be learnt in terms of transportation planning and the speed of execution of such projects.


  1. we should not take it at the face value given the cultural/social difference existed in china. while the #s are staggering & magnificent hardware structure, beneath the surface the safety control can be severely lacking. everyone from gov officials to contractors to material suppliers gets a kick back, during accidents no one claims responsibility. One of the officials said “you may not believe it(the purported cause issued by gov) but i did”. How comforting is that?
    In short, china is full of contradictions, things are not what they appear. Take everything they said with a grain of salt.

  2. No matter what weaknesses the system has, you still cannot deny what’s been achieved. Every country has it’s own issues to grapple with but I still admire the pace and execution that they have achieved.

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