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China pays high price for world's fastest train

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Staff Writer |
China Railway Group
Asia   China Railway Group is $700 billion in debt

When China recently reclaimed the title of having the world fastest train, it might have been a moment of national celebration.

Instead, there were worries about whether the cost was worth it, Nikke said.

The "Fuxing" (rejuvenation) high-speed train service between Beijing and Shanghai returned to operating at 350kph on September 21.

For six years, it had been limited to 300kph following a crash in 2011 when two high-speed trains collided, killing 40 people and injuring about 200.

Soon after the Beijing-Shanghai line returned to full speed, the internet began buzzing with rumors that train fares would also rise in line with the higher speed.

Perhaps people would have been more enthusiastic - as the country heads into the Communist Party's congress in October - if concerns were not so great about the mountain of debt that the country's ambitious railway program has built up.

China Railway Group - the state-owed company that operates high-speed trains - now groans with over $700 billion in debt.

Speculation is rife that fares must rise to service the debt. High-speed train fares for the route between Shanghai and Shenzhen did in fact rise 20-60% in April.

But there has been no fare increase for the Beijing-Shanghai route yet. First- and second-class fares have stayed at 933 yuan ($140) and 553 yuan, respectively.

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