Air routes increased to compete with high-speed railway

The Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway, which is expected to be in operation by the end of this year, has raised the pressure on airline companies, reported the Guangzhou Daily. The advantages of taking a flight that spans the railway's route and is less than 1,000 kilometers are shrinking, a Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) staff said. 

The Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway will reduce train travelling time from the current 12 hours to 3 hours, which is only one-and-half hours longer than it would take to fly. Ticket prices for the fast train will rise from 248 yuan to 480 yuan, but the tickets are still cheaper than the air fare of 930 yuan. Even with the best discounts, a plane ticket will still cost a minimum of 370 yuan.  

Mr. Wang, who has sold plane tickets for a dozen years, said, "Many of my customers have said they plan on taking the train to go to home during the spring festival." 

Airline companies have drawn up strategies to contend for passengers before the high-speed railway even opens. On October 25, CAAC carried out a new "winter and spring flight schedule." Air China has opened six new domestic air express lines (Beijing-Chengdu, Beijing-Chongqing, Beijing-Shanghai, Beijing-Hangzhou, Beijing-Guangzhou and Beijing-Shenzhen.) On November 1, a Beijing-Hong Kong air express will also be opened. Both China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines opened a Shanghai-Xian air express, and China Southern Airlines will keep operating its Guangzhou-Changsha air express. 

"We are considering selling tickets at different prices to target specific client groups, such as students and those going home to visit family," said Luo Yong, manager of the Air China Huanan office. He also noted that air fare can be adjusted according to the demands of the market. 

Historically, high-speed railways have always had an influence on civil aviation companies' operation. Take Japan as an example. Japan Airlines closed lines from Tokyo to Osaka and Nagoya after the Shinkansen (bullet train) opened. In France, Europe Star took almost 70 percent of the transportation market share from London to Paris. And BMI (British Midlands) closed all lines from the Heathrow Airport to the Charles de Gaulle Airport. 

Some analysts believe that if airline and railway companies form an alliance, they will achieve a win-win situation.

It will soon be more convenient for passengers going from the Zhujiang Delta (Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau) and the South China District (Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan provinces) to go to Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, if they take rail transit.

(2009-10-26 source:china.org.cn)