Different Train Types on the Chinese Railway
There are several different types of trains operating in China, indicated by the letter before the train number. The most common types are as follows:
‘D’ trains are the high-speed bullet trains. They operate only during the day and have a top speed of 250km/h. They usually cover short distances but there are some longer routes available, including Beijing-Shanghai and Beijing-Harbin. Otherwise, they usually connect Beijing and Shanghai with nearby cities (eg. Beijing-Tianjin and Shanghai-Hangzhou).
‘Z’ trains are the most modern trains in China and are quickest because they only make one stop or sometimes don’t stop at all. ‘Z’ trains run on some of the most popular routes for foreigners such as Beijing-Shanghai and Beijing-Xian and also cover routes such as Beijing-Nanjing, Beijing-Hangzhou, Beijing-Harbin and Shanghai-Tianjin.
‘T’ series trains are fast, modern trains that make several stops along the way. These are common on all the major routes and are generally the best choice.
‘K’ series trains are also fast trains (in terms of the speed the train can reach) but they stop frequently. The quality can be a little lower than on the ‘T’ series trains but they are basically the same.
Trains that have only four numbers with no preceding letter can be painfully slow and are the lowest quality trains. It’s a good idea to avoid them when possible.