The following is a report from a trip I took in 2011
- Origin: Jinan West
- Destination: Beijing South
- Distance: 406 km
- Travel Time: 1:38
It was time to leave Jinan again, this time for Beijing. I was travelling from Jinan West station, a brand new station, built exclusively for CRH (China Rail Highspeed) trains.
We set off into the foggy morning to find the new station. So new, that my driver wasn’t even sure where it was! We drove down the main highway heading west, through new suburbs and then past building sites, bearing pictures promising sparkling new apartment blocks. Finally, we were driving past piles of dirt beside the road and we saw a sign with the symbol for China Railways.
We followed the arrows and were led, with a large number of taxis and other cars, down a wide dirt road. It had rained overnight in Jinan and the road had turned to mud. My driver dodged huge potholes as best he could, but it was futile with the number of cars and taxis using the little dirt road.
We came to a T-intersection, but because of a barrier in the middle of the intersecting road, we were only able to turn east, away from the station. Where the barrier finished, 2 lanes of traffic were doing illegal U turns back towards the station. My driver did the same, and shortly after we arrived at Jinan West station.
The station was impressive, emerging out of the fog in the middle of nowhere. It was a brightly illuminated cube with no buildings anywhere near it, 5 storeys tall with an airport style roadway leading up to the entrance. The roadway was in chaos, with taxis and private cars parked varying distances from the footpath, some right on top of it, some a whole car width out from the kerb. My driver squeezed into a spot between two taxis and let me out.
Inside, the station was even more impressive. Chinese railway stations are normally dank, dirty, cramped places, with stained concrete floors, dirty cream coloured plastic walls poorly placed support columns and low ceilings. This railway station was exactly the opposite; spotless polished granite flooring with 3 storey high ceilings. Brightly lit ticketing areas and glass walls giving an impression of endless space.
My ticket had been pre-purchased in Qingdao, so after passing through security, I made my way up the escalator to the waiting area. Upstairs was just as spacious as downstairs, with the ceiling 2 levels high and a mezzanine running around the perimeter of the waiting area. The walls were glass up here as well, and ceiling had a large glass portion running along the middle, which added to the feeling of openness. I had about 45 minutes before my train departed, so I waited in the spotless, open waiting area on the unusually clean seat.
Time came to board, and it was a CRH380 train. It was painted in the CRH livery (white with a dark blue stripe below the window line) and had a bullet nose that looked like it would be more appropriate on a fighter jet than a train. As with the CRH5 I had travelled on from Qingdao, it had a pantograph on the roof of cars 3 & 6, but also had vertical wings on either side of each pantograph (I presume to help with the aerodynamics).
Once again I was travelling second class. Inside it was very similar to the CRH5, just the fittings were all more modern. One of the Ice Age cartoon movies was playing on the TV monitors, unfortunately, the audio had been dubbed into Mandarin and there were no subtitles.
My train departed 2 minutes early, and raced away into the countryside at speeds approaching 300km/h. There wasn’t a lot to see, as most of the landscape was obscured by thick fog. We travelled on a purpose built high speed line and blasted through many small towns without stopping. We made one quick stop of less than 30 seconds at Dezhou East and were soon passing through Beijing’s southern suburbs.
We arrived at Beijing South station 3 minutes early, the platforms full with other CRH trains. Like Jinan West, Beijing South has recently been purpose built for CRH trains. It is a modern, spacious and clean and feels more like an airport than a railway station. On the concourse level, there are western style restaurants and coffee shops.
I left the concourse and walked into the station proper, my first time alone in Beijing. After a moment’s hesitation, I picked up my suitcase and pushed my way through the crowds towards the subway station.