BEIJING, Mar. 15 -- The highly anticipated Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway will begin operation next year, and is expected to cut travel time to four hours, railway officials said.
The high-speed railway between China's two most important metropolises was scheduled to open in 2012 but will now open one year ahead of time, said Zheng Jian, chief planner with the Ministry of Railways.
Wang Zhiguo, vice-minister of railways, said that it would be a four-hour journey from Beijing to Shanghai, and only three hours from Beijing to Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province.
At present, it takes about 10 hours to travel from Beijing to Shanghai and Nanjing by train.
A new-generation bullet train that will travel up to 380 kilometers per hour (kph) is now under development for the high-speed rail link.
It will be rigorously tested this year, and engineers want the train to run at a top speed of 420 kph to guarantee a safe operational speed of 380 kph, Huang Qiang, chief researcher with the China Academy of Railway Sciences told the Beijing News.
Vice-Minister Wang Zhiguo said it was expected that high-speed trains would one day take passengers from Beijing to most capital cities within eight hours, except for Haikou, Urumqi, Lhasa and Taipei.
It is expected that an 110,000-km railway network will be completed by 2012, including 13,000 km of high-speed rail, he said.
China already has 6,552 km of rail track in operation - the longest amount of high-speed rail track in the world.
The ministry wants to export China's high-speed railway technology to North America, Europe and Latin America.
Wang said State-owned Chinese companies are already building high-speed lines in Turkey and Venezuela.
Many countries, including the United States, Russia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, have also expressed interest.
"China is willing to share its mature and advanced technology with other countries to promote development of the world's high-speed railways," he said.
The ministry has signed cooperation memos with California in the United States, as well as Russia and Brazil.
"We are organizing relevant companies to participate in bidding for US high-speed railways and prepare for bidding on a line in Brazil linking Rio de Janeiro with Sao Paulo," the vice-minister said.
The ministry introduced high-speed train technologies from France, Germany and Japan, while at the same time made its own innovations. It now owns 940 patents concerning high-speed railways, the ministry's chief engineer He Huawu said.
At present, at least 10,000 km of high-speed rail line is under construction in China. About 3,676 km of new track for running trains at speeds up to 350 kph have already been laid and put into operation. Another 2,876 km of old tracks have been upgraded to run trains of 200 to 250 kph.
Ultimately, China plans to construct a 120,000-km railway network, including 50,000-km of high-speed rail track, by 2020.