■ 20:57 (UTC+08:00), 11 JAN 2016 | CHN CHAOYANGMEN, BEIJING
Photo credit: Liang Bo
That’s me doing Rail English again for China. Just a few days back, I was appointed Railway English Consultant for Ji’nanxi (Ji’nan West) and its subordinate stations, which also included Taian, Qufudong (Qufu East), Tengzhoudong (Tengzhou East) and Zaozhuang stations. Some time earlier, I also did much the same at Xuzhoudong (Xuzhou East) station, which basically meant that if you’re travelling between these stations, you should see serious improvements in Rail English.
(For a start, you shouldn’t have to linger around signposts around elevators which threaten to automatically suck you in — induct you — to start things off!)
As of late there’s one other very welcoming development: the Beijing-Shanghai HSR has been showered by the central government in China, giving it top honours in a national science and technology progress awards ceremony.
This new line, though, wasn’t born at the best-possible timing. Whilst the world seemed to go after the trains (and yours truly, in particular!), the opening of rail services was short-lived, faults-wise: less than a month after it opened, on 23 July 2011, the awful Wenzhou HSR crash happened. To make matters worse, Train D301, which ploughed into Train D3115, actually was travelling on the HSR route on its way to its destination in Fuzhou!
However, this was the only serious blemish involving the HSR route. The line itself saw no accidents at all (and only rare cases of services being slowed due to blizzards, or trains only very occasionally cancelled due to typhoons). It is no secret this is now one of China’s busiest HSR routes. Trains G1 through to G22, which generally run the 1,318 km (824 mi) stretch in less than 5 hours’ time, are amongst the most popular trains in the nation, both amongst locals and expats, as well as visitors from abroad.
With the line as popular and as award-winning as it is, the next big goal — or Chinese Dream (well!… if you’d like!) my end would be to make it China’s first 100% bilingual line. I know how it’ll work: I’ve already taught at, and improve English across, nearly a third of all stations. Beijingnan (Beijing South) station is next: I’m seeing if the crew at Beijing’s amazing HSR hub is interested (and they seem to be for a fair bit now!).
Trust me: there’s nothing as disappointing as boarding one of the world’s most amazing trains — only to run into a very nice-looking, member of train crew — but with the language barrier between you two, with the crew member working in Chinese-only, and you in any language but Mandarin! That’s why my commitment to making this the first “100% bilingual” line is for real. ■ ■ ■