China has, at 8,358 kilometres, the longest high-speed rail network in the world. In December 2010, the Guangzhou-Zhuhai express rail commenced trail operation, with the travel time between the two cities reduced to 30 minutes. And the high-profile Shanghai-Beijing express rail is scheduled for operation in June.
Yet, ordinary Chinese people will have to face tougher uphill battles in the coming Chinese New Year in order to get a train ticket to return home for festive celebration. Reason? As China develops express rail links, the regular train services have been cut and for those that can only afford regular train price, especially the migrant workers and the students, they are destined harder to get a train ticket.
How expensive are the tickets for the high speed train? Take the Guangzhou-Wuhan high-speed trains. A second-class ticket costs RMB490. And how much does, say a migrant worker earn? Here are some pointers. The minimum wage in Shenzhen is RMB1,100; and starting March this year, the minimum wage in Guangzhou will be raised to RMB1,300, topping the whole country. In the second-tier and third-tier cities, the minimum wage are significantly lower.
High-speed trains are a symbol of China’s technology advancement and economic might. But the fact is, they are also a symbol of benefiting the rich, leaving those ordinary and poor even more behind.