Imagine there is a contest over who wins the crown jewel of China's development from the past 15 years and it looks like the prize goes to the high speed rail (HSR).
On August 1, 2008, China opened its first HSR line between Beijing and Tianjin.
Seven years later, over 90 Chinese cities were connected to the HSR network.
By 2021, the total length of Chinese HSR lines had surpassed the 40,000 kilometers milestone, but more expansion is yet to come.
Now, China has developed the longest length of lines in operation, more than the sum totals of rail lines in Spain, Japan, France and Germany combined.
But along with incredibly fast construction, HSR ticket prices in China have seen little changes in the past 10 years.
To calculate HSR's affordability, we found that for the G Type High Speed Rail, the price per 100 kilometers on a second class ride had only changed from 45 to 46 RMB between 2008 and 2021. Yet the average monthly individual disposable income had increased by 253 percent.
These two indicators constitute an index, named the HSR spending level.
For China, the HSR spending level had dropped from 5.42 percent in 2008 to 1.57 percent in 2021, meaning the high speed transportation method was becoming much more affordable.
China's high speed railway is also competitive among its international counterparts. In 2009, the spending level for China was 5.03 percent. But by 2019, it dropped to 1.8 percent, closing in on the 1.55 percent level of France.
Nevertheless, China's HSR spending level remained in the middle range compared to other world economies, due to not only the lower monthly income but also high construction costs.
For example, the route running between Ganzhou and Shenzhen in southern China, over 86 percent of it is made up of bridges and tunnels. The Jian-Tan-Dong-Jiang Great Bridge, nearly one kilometer long, was the world's longest and widest HSR bridge when completed.
Given all these costs, let's all agree that ticket prices of China's HSR are good value.
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