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The Dream of Speed -- the Observation of a Guilin Middle School Student on High-speed Railway

By Weici Zhao

The train left Guilin station and was driven forward slowly. The figure in the front-end digital screen in the car was rising, and finally stayed in the 350km/h. I looked out of the window, mountains being outlined afar, rivers vertically or horizontally flowing, neat croplands, dotted houses ... A scene after scene of beautiful sceneries which were connected to a virtual shadow flew past me. Surrounded by bangs of the track, I gradually fell asleep. "Ladies and gentlemen, the arrival station next is the terminal station…" I woke up. The scenery outside the window jumped from the layers of the green mountains to high-rise buildings. It took only three hours to arrive in Shenzhen.

As a senior high school student in the international department of the school, in recent two years I’ve frequently travelled among Guilin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and other places due to test needs of TOEFL and ACT. Thanks to the operation of Guilin high-speed rail, I no longer need to spend hours a day in advance to check and wait in the airport in outskirts to go to other provinces, but directly buy a high-speed rail ticket online, go to the HSR station in the city and enter the train after my face is screened. The shortest time it takes me to Guangzhou is 2.5 hours. In retrospect, the change seems to be momentary when bullet trains replace the Bam-Bam trains on the track. Experiencing the convenience of the high-speed train, I begin to wonder how fast the development of the high-speed railway is after operating five years, and what changes it brings exactly to our life and city. Thus this summer, I completed this article to tell "high-speed story" of our own city by visiting three high-speed rail stations in Guilin, consulting leaders of the railway department and interviewing surrounding shops and directors of development zone of high-speed railways.

All kinds of small vendors stood side by side together, with souvenirs, power banks, drinks and other goods quietly lined up. Glaring sun baked the ground, even the air was also in faint distortion. In the corridor in front of the station and under the big tree crowdedly sat passengers surrounded by large and small luggage. When the security gate rang with “didi”, a long queue lined up in the entrance. Sounds of cicadas and voices of people were mixed together, loud and noisy. In the high temperature near 40 °, Guilin North station was still busy. Located in Lingchuan County, 6.2 km from the city center, five years ago it was just a seldom frequented and normal train station. If my family took trains, they would choose the old Guilin station in the city centre instead of the Guilin North Station. However, after the high-speed railway was operated, the North Station became the main point for us to take the high-speed train, prospering quickly and becoming what it is at the present. This is the power of high-speed rail, remodeling a station in five years. But the change is much more than that.

Through communicating with the staff in Guilin station and researching relevant information, I learned that before the opeartion of high-speed railway, only a Xianggui railway traversed. Channel capacity and buses operated in railway transportation were relatively limited, so Guilin's tourism industry with “mountains and rivers top worldwide” was restricted to a certain extent. After Hengliu high-speed railway was operated in the end 2013 and Guiguang in 2014, as the intersection of the two railway lines, 8 new high-speed railway stations were consecutively constructed in Guilin, successfully realizing "a city with nine stations and two high-speed railways". Thanks to this, Guilin North Station evolves from a small station with few buses and trains everyday to a large station with surging people now. And Guilin, as the junction of multiple high-speed railways, each day the number of D-series high-speed trains reaches 140, connecting 14 provinces and municipalities nationwide. Every 10 minutes or so there is a train stops by Guilin. About three hours are spent from Guilin to Nanning, Guiyang, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha and other provincial capital cities. In addition, departing from Guilin, the farthest east can be reached to Shanghai, the west to Lijiang, the south to Zhuhai and the north to Beijing. It took two days to arrive in the distant north before, while now maximum 10 hours!

Sharpe rise of passenger traffic is also directly driven by developed railways and high-speed trains. Before operating the high-speed rail, a total of 4.29 million passengers was accumulated in Guilin railway station in 2013, and after high-speed rail was operated, the number of passengers in Guilin railway station in 2015 surged to 12.26 million! 7.97 million new arrivals in two years, "high speed of the train " in Guilin could be speculated! I couldn't help thinking of the thick high-speed rail tickets at home. In the past, train tickets in my family were always "rare items". We would generally drive through short distances and flew through long distances. However, since the operation of Guilin high-speed railway, high-speed trains completely replaced private cars when going to cities of neighboring provinces like Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Fares a bit over 100RMB, three-hour drive and comfortable seats ... Convenient transportation and massive passenger traffic of the high-speed rail stations not only attract small shops, but also large commercial complexes such as Hengda Square which is located opposite the station in recent two years. Currently, when people exit the North station, what they face is no longer a wasteland, but the shopping mall consists of high-rises.

Actually, not only the station but also the whole Lingchuan county has changed a lot since the Guilin high-speed rail started 5 years ago. When talking with staffs from Yue-Gui-Qian high-speed rail economic development zone, I find that Lingchuan county has wide territory where are almost accessible plains fit for development. However, before the start of high-speed rail, far away from the center, it once was a wasteland. Few investors were willing to come here, and the county is open to all stores, which can be viewed as “One is better than none”. After the start of high-speed rail, there is no need encourging announcement. The title of “High-speed rail development zone” looks like a huge magnet which attracts many investors’ attention to its super-convenient transportation and large flow of visitors. Now, not all of investors and stores could be allowed but would be compared or selected to enter into Lingchuan county. With the deep development of high-speed rail, more rail lines are concentrated which brings a floushing Lingchuan county.

“None could be compared with the scenery of Guilin”, the development of high-speed rail injects new vigor to its tourism. Through conversations with the chief of the station, I’ve known that Cantonese are mostly seen among visitors in Guilin. From Guangdong to Guilin, it just costs 3 hours by high-speed rail which makes Guilin become Cantonese’ prior for trips. In addition, 9 high-speed rail stations are directly set up around the site which not only decreases visitors’s journey but also connects all sites. For example, around Yangshuo station is Nine-horses Mountain, Yulong River and Tuteng Ancient Path. Gongcheng station is located in the Yao nationality autonomous county of Gongcheng which can be appreciated with the customs and culture of Yao nationality. The intangible cultural heritage, the Lingqu Canal is around Xing’an station. And mysterious lake is around Quanzhou station, etc. 1.9 km from the center and near the scenery of Rivers and Lakes, East Guilin station is convenient for viewing the best scenery of Guilin. There is no need transferring buses or cars but taking bullet trains to pass by Guilin’s 9 high-speed rail stations, experience different scenery at any time or continue next sightseeing. How could it be impossbile to atttract visitors with its coordinated and convenient journey? According to the statistics, the total amount of tourists in Guilin reaches 38.7 million in 2014 and 42 million in 2015 with year-on-year growth of 9 %. In 2017, there is more than 15.46 million of visitors in Guilin station.

The convenient transportation not only attracts more visitors but also help citizens sightsee outside. This summer, my classmates’ travel photos are full of my social space. Some take bullet trains to Chengdu, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Yunnan. The show of air tickets becomes the show of bullet train tickets. Three or five friends could form a group to enter the station in a few minutes with ID card by buying high-speed rail ticket which is cheaper than air tickets and more convenient than trains. And you can also appreciate the scenery on the journey during short driving. There is no doubt that travel by fast buses is our top choice. Meanwhile, it is fit for the old. My grandfather is over 90. It is not safe for him to take the plane or time-consuming bullet trains or cars which suffer a lot. One or two-hours journey by fast buses fits for the old like my grandfather.

Since 5 years, more and more bullet trains drive on Guilin roads which head for different destinations. With the development of high-speed rail, Guilin’s economy and tourism are increasing rapidly. But there are some problems behind the development which could not be ignored. For example, the light of the waiting room in north station is dim. The increase of flow of visitors makes the waiting room crowded. And the inside infrastructure in east station is terribly old. Hence, whether take renovation into consideration? Lighting the bright, enlarging the waiting room and increasing the cleaning ensure visitors have a bright, comfortable and clean waiting room with more seats to sit. Small retailers suffer a bad business after years’ good business. So, whether can be transformed into local cultural announcement zone or guide retailers to change into a more characteristic operation mode combining local culture with website? There are many bus lines in the gate of the old Guilin station concentrated together which easily cause traffic jam. So whether can separate the flow of visitors to other stations to ease the traffic pressure? Only when little problems are be solved, opinions are collected to improve the infrastructure and related system, and better experience is provided for visitors, the development of Guilin’s high-speed rail could advance more steadily and Guilin’s culture could be more sparlking as its business card with more announcement.

From ancient to modern times, transportation is the key of a city’s or a coutry’s development. Where there is a convenient transportation system, there is a busy city. Railways, bridges and express buses connect my hometown Guilin, a little southern town with the world tightly. “The stories of high-speed rail” like Guilin are on other cities which form an uncontinued Chinese “high-speed rail stories”. As a bridge between ASEAN and China, the development of Guangxi high-speed rail also influences and stimulates the neighbouring countries. Under the cooperative framework of “One belt one road”, more and more countries begin to cooperate with China to establish high-speed rail. As a young observer of high-speed rail, I will passionately observe the development and growth of this area.

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