In good news for travelers, the Beijing Railway Administration recently announced that they would introduce online train ticket bookings to coincide with the launch of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed Railway towards the end of June, 2011. At this stage I can’t see any information to say whether this service will also be available in English.
My guess is that it probably won’t be. And it almost certainly won’t be possible to pay with a foreign credit card online given that even major travel providers targeting foreign tourists such as CTrip and Elong require a faxed credit card authorisation form. But it’s good news nonetheless. Anything that helps to shorten the often horrendous queues at train stations in China has to be a good thing.
Recent test runs on the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway line have broken records, reaching speeds of 486 km/h. When it’s up and running, trains will run at an average speed of 380 km/h and shorten the journey between the two cities from 10 hours to about 4 hours. When the service is launched, you would have to think it will be more convenient to travel between the two cities by train than by air.
In other train travel news, it looks like a program that requires ID to be shown when buying tickets will be extended. The program is aimed to cut down on ticket scalping by linking each ticket to a specific individual. A similar system operates in Russia, and while it creates some hassle with the extra checks, it should do a lot to improve ticket availability on Chinese railways.