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Here is a belated addition, a good news was reported in September:

Sound financials recharge China's fast trains - MarketWatch

BEIJING (Caixin Online) -- Four of the nation's 14 high-speed rail lines have financially broken even since bullet trains started full-speed, intercity service in China two years ago, giving impetus to a Ministry of Railways expansion.

Passenger ticket revenues have so far matched expenses -- including debt payments -- for the busy Beijing-Tianjin, Shanghai-Nanjing, Beijing-Shanghai and Shanghai-Hangzhou lines, a source at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) told Caixin.

Moreover, the financial health of the Beijing-Shanghai line exceeded expectations during its first operating year, which ended in June, sources told Caixin.

Some notes:

  • While including debt payments, the above "break-even" figures probably still exclude depreciation (the article is a bit confusing).
  • All specific lines discussed in the article are presently operated at 300 km/h, but the figure of "14 high-speed rail lines" includes lower-quality and cheaper 200 km/h lines. It is unclear whether Caixin had information about the performance of these. (I would expect that, for example, the busy and competition-killing Hefei–Wuhan line is profitable.)
  • Three more 300 km/h lines were in service in early September. Of these, the long Wuhan–Guangzhou line (which crushed the airlines, too) has a relatively high ridership that (in spite of the post-Wenzhou slowdown) again grew by more than 25% in the year to date; and the opening of connecting lines to Beijing and Kowloon (Hong Kong) is to give further boost toward profitability. Those same connections should also help the remaining two lines (Guangzhou–Shenzhen, the newest; and Zhenzhou–Xi'an, the one Caixin reports as problem case).

The 'further impetus to railway expansion' Caixin mentions is a reversal of the post-Wenzhou trend of budget reductions:

After getting a green light from the government's chief economic planners at NDRC, the rail ministry said July 30 it would spend 470 billion yuan this year on high-speed railways. That represented a 14% increase in spending from a previous budget plan.

On the negative side, China Railways is still following a policy of high ticket prices on new lines, leading to public debate.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 05:40:34 AM EST
But then out of the four lines, three are on the short side, less than 300 km long...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 08:00:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given that five of the eight lines are like that and two of the rest are super-long, that's not at all surprising. (BTW, I take you compare distances to typical TGV travels from Paris, but typical distances are less than 300 km in Italy or Germany.) The noteworthy thing is that Beijing–Shanghai is among the four: a €28 billion line on which the busiest relation competes one of the busiest air routes in the world with a travel time of 5 hours is uncharted territory. It is also noteworthy that two of the shorter lines that also made break-even (Beijing–Tianjin and Shanghai–Nanjing) are parallel to it: that's some demand.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 02:41:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But then linking two 20 million megalopolises is quite unprecedented too... Looking at the schedule, there's already 5 trains an hour scheduled !

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 06:48:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just looked at the schedule, too. There are altogether 112 trains per day per direction. Of the southbound trains,
  • 41 run the full distance,
  • 25 start in Beijing but don't reach Shanghai,
  • 42 start somewhere south of Beijing but reach Shanghai, and
  • 4 use some section in the middle only.

The busiest section is the south end, Nanjing–Shanghai, which also carries the east-west traffic of the corridor along the Yangze River (83 southbound trains). The least busy section is directly to the north, Bengbu–Nanjing (58 southbound trains). That's still significantly less than the busiest section in France and I guess Europe (the LGV Sud-Est between the junction outside Paris and the junction for Dijon; about 125 trains per day per direction), but trains are higher-capacity.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 10:24:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's worth to stress three things about the Zhengzhou-Xi'an line, the one Caixin reports as underperforming.

First, all other 300 km/h lines connect to (or are inside) one of China's three big economic centres: the Beijing area, the Yangtze River Delta (Shanghai etc.) and the Pearl River Delta (Guangzhou etc.). Through connections to these areas should represent demand of the same magnitude as connections within the Zhengzhou-Xi'an corridor. Hence, I expect a major boost for the line from the other lines to Zhengzhou. It is instructive to look at the current situation:

  • There is no high-speed train from Xi'an that continues towards the east, and just one single train that continues to Beijing (along the conventional line) – this one covers a mere 1,194 km distance in 8h 48m.
  • Since the 28 September opening of the Zhengzhou–Wuhan line, seven (mostly new) daily train services from Xi'an (out of 18) continue south along it, five of them reaching Guangzhou, one of them even Shenzhen. (The last one must be the longest scheduled service in the world that runs along successive high-speed lines: 2,221 km in 9h 15m.)

The second point is that at the time the line was opened, none of the major cities along it (Zhengzhou, Luoyang, Xi'an) had a mass transit system worth its name (unlike most of the major cities along the four other lines). But Xi'an's first metro line opened last September (ending at the high-speed station), Zhengzhou's first will open next year, and Luoyang is planning a metro, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 07:10:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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