“Green-skin” trains, last survivors of China’s rail overhaul
Not everyone will take comfortable high-speed trains home during China’s Spring Festival travel rush. The country may have modernized its rail services at breakneck pace in recent decades, but there are still some old-fashioned locomotives left trundling along the rails.
For anyone happy to take their time and keen to avoid the notoriously crowded conditions on Chinese public transport at this time of year, a good option could be these “green-skin” trains, named after the color scheme of most carriages in China in the last century.
The number 6423/4 has been running for more than 20 years from Handan, Hebei Province to Lucheng, Shanxi Province. It takes nearly six hours to travel 209 km.
The fare has not changed in 20 years. It costs 2 yuan (30 US cents) to travel 40 km, and the ticket from Nanjiao station to Dongyang station could be the cheapest in China – it is 1 yuan for adults and 0.5 yuan for students.
The train uses an old diesel engine locomotive. The carriages do not have electric heaters, with any warmth in the winter coming from coal stoves.
Fewer and fewer people are taking green-skin trains. They exist only in rural and remote areas. Ten years from now, they will probably be just a memory.