The opening of the new 2,298-kilometre (1,425-mile) line between Beijing and Guangzhou means passengers will be whisked from the capital to the southern commercial hub in just eight hours, compared with the 22 hours previously required. State broadcaster China Central Television showed the 9:00 am (0100 GMT) departure of the first train live from Beijing West Railway Station and its arrival later in Guangzhou at about 5:00 pm. It also carried occasional live reports inside the train throughout the day, showing passengers toting cameras to apparently snap commemorative photos, as well as shots from outside as it sped through the countryside.
Another train departed Guangzhou for the capital at 10:00 am, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The train departing Beijing travelled at an average speed of 300 kilometres per hour and made stops in four cities—Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou, Wuhan on the Yangtze River and Changsha before arriving in Guangzhou. State media have reported that December 26 was chosen to start passenger service on the Beijing-Guangzhou line to commemorate the birth in 1893 of revered Chinese leader Mao Zedong. The Beijing-Guangzhou route was made possible with the completion of a line between Zhengzhou and Beijing. High-speed sections linking Zhengzhou and Wuhan and Wuhan and Guangzhou were already in service.
China's high-speed rail network was only established in 2007, but has fast become the world's largest. Xinhua said that China now operates 9,300 kilometres of high-speed railways. The state-run China Daily newspaper reported that the nation's high-speed rail network is set to jump to 50,000 kilometres by 2020, with four main lines running north and south and another four east and west.The train's opening means that it will be in service over China's Lunar New Year holiday period, which falls in mid-February next year. Hundreds of millions of people travel across the country during that period to visit their ancestral hometowns in the world's largest annual migration.