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    Concerns over Beijing--Shanghai Bullet Train Profitability, Practicality

    NTDTelevision

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    In about a week, the Beijing-to-Shanghai bullet train will officially begin service. Chinese authorities are banking on it transforming travel in the area. But questions remain over whether the expensive project will be profitable, and whether people will even be able to afford tickets.

    China's high-speed rail, linking Beijing to Shanghai, is slated for formal service at the end of this month. The train and rail system cost more than 30 billion U.S. dollars—that's more expensive than the Three Gorges Dam. With interest payments to cost more than one billion dollars in one year, some doubt the project will bring financial returns.

    [Li Hongcang, Beijing Jiatong University's School of Traffic and Transportation]:
    "It'll need the support of financial institutions and the state. It'll need tax reductions or getting subsidies from the government. We'll continue to need economic support from the state to operate the rail."

    Passengers can expect to go from Beijing to Shanghai in just five hours on the bullet train. But just how many people will actually use the service is not clear. Ticket prices have been criticized for being too costly for the average Chinese traveler.

    Li Hongcang from the Beijing Jiatong University's School of Traffic and Transportation points out more is needed to support the rail.

    [Li Hongcang, Beijing Jiatong University's School of Traffic and Transportation]:
    "Some regions have jumped into building a high speed rail without even having a normal rail line. They didn't consider economies of scale. You cannot disregard the needs for ordinary rail-lines in developing high-speed rails. To operate high speed rail, a more systematic change is needed."