Announcing specific completion timetables for infrastructure endeavors is a dicey business in China. If a project suffers setbacks and deadlines pass without completion, officials can lose their jobs. This reality makes it maddeningly difficult to guess with any accuracy when work on a given venture might actually conclude.
Such is the case with high-speed railways in Yunnan. Initial forecasts first made public six years ago anticipated at least two separate inter-city bullet train lines would be running in the province by 2015. That goal is apparently no longer feasible, but the head of the Kunming Railway Bureau (KRB) appears confident work will be completed less than two years from now.
Zhang Caichun (张才春), KRB party secretary, publicly declared both the Shanghai-Kunming (沪昆高铁) and Yunnan-Guangxi (云桂高铁) lines would be operational by the end of 2016. He made the comments October 30 while taking calls for the Mayor's Hotline — a phone service established to make government officials more available to the public.
The Shanghai-Kunming High-Speed Railway will connect the now under-construction railway station in Chenggong to China's most populous municipality. The dual track, passenger-only railway, will cover 2,066 kilometers and pass through the major cities of Hangzhou, Nanchang, Changsha and Guiyang. A full journey is projected to take eight to ten hours at cruising speeds of between 200 and 300 kilometers per hour.
Zhang's comments confirmed reports regarding the Shanghai-Kunming line from last year. However, up until Thursday, no concrete schedule for the 754-kilometer Yunnan-Guangxi line had been announced. According to Zhang, that line — connecting Kunming to Nanning, and eventually Guangzhou — will be finished two years from now, at the same time as the Shanghai project. The Kunming terminus will be the existing Kunming Train Station, another detail left up in the air until Zhang began taking phone calls.
During his time speaking with the public, the railway chief also revealed details of what passengers can expect when boarding bullet trains in Yunnan. Some staff, according to Zhang, will be decked out in minority dress common to the areas through which the trains travel and dining cars will feature minority cuisine. On a more practical level, trains will all be equipped with wi-fi capability.
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