WUHAN, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- China's railway stations Friday began selling passenger tickets for the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway, which boasts the world's fastest train journey with a 350-km-per-hour average speed.
The service between Wuhan, the largest city in central China, and Guangzhou City, a business hub in the southern Guangdong Province, was scheduled to start on Dec. 26.
The journey of 1,068.6 kilometers would take three hours, compared with the previous 10 and a half hours, said an official with the Wuhan railway bureau.
Tickets from Wuhan to Guangzhou ranged from 490 yuan (72 U.S. dollars) to 780 yuan, almost the same as airline tickets.
The China-made bullet trains reached a maximum speed of 394.2 km per hour in trial operations on Dec. 20, said Sun Bangcheng, general engineer of the Tangshan Railway Vehicle Co., Ltd of ChinaCNR Corporation Ltd, the manufacturer of the trains.
China's government has launched a major upgrading of the nation's overstretched railway system. It will build 42 high-speed passenger rail lines with a total length of 13,000 kilometers in the next three years.
The country opened the first high-speed railway between Beijing and Tianjin last year.
With the expanding network of highways, bullet trains could further open up travel to millions of Chinese, while putting the pressure on airlines.
"The price for Wuhan-Guangzhou line is reasonable, although it is a little bit higher than discounted flight price," said Wu Bin, a businessman who traveled between the cities frequently. "The time of the rail journey is even shorter than by air, because I can avoid security checks as well as long trips between the airports and city centers."
To attract passengers, China Southern Airlines (CSA) Thursday announced an express service with 30 flights traveling between Guangzhou, Wuhan and Changsha from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.
The airfare from Wuhan to Guangzhou dived to 190 yuan at the lowest, compared with the previous level at about 1,000 yuan.
When a network of high-speed passenger rail lines traveling at 250 to 350 km per hour is finished in 2012, it will cover almost every major city with a large population. Almost 80 percent of the civil transportation market will be affected.
"We can only survive the competition by reducing costs and improving services," said Si Xianmin, general manager of CSA.