Even when I’m doing the documentary around all railway stations across China, I return home pretty much every night. However, tonight, the journey my end is accompanied by a fair bit of video gear, plus microphones (which I don’t use except for doing livecasts), and the sound of a train happily chugging away to Southern Central China. That’s right: I’m off to visit around 20 stations — and the journey will start off from Changsha, where I’ll also get to visit Changsha’s newest railway station, Changsha West. (Tracy is off to a culture programme, which is why for the next two weeks, we’ll be in different parts of the country.)
The trip my end will be semi-live in the form of tweets, the occasional Periscope livestreaming session, and a fair bit more. ▶
Hong Kong remains this place in my heart, like Shanghai, as one of those Chinese cities where you’ve got just about everything. But it looks like, especially after my London days, HK has more. Lots more.
Like legacy fonts. I remembered these on the Swissair of old. Fonts that reminded you to the 1990s, when we didn’t have a nukes-obsessed dotard on 1600 Covfefe Avenue (or the equivalent north of the 38th parallel) whose one push on the soft red rubber button of death would end humanity as we know it. The 1990s were a time of freer and more peaceful days…
The 1990s also brought forth Hong Kong’s then-new international airport. It does look a little dated now, but Kai Tak was just epic insanity. ▶
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make China’s HSR great. Like, say, the 261 km long Tianjin-Qinhuangdao HSR. At just 163 miles, this is hardly a major trunk line in one of the world’s largest countries, but it links the high speed lines between Beijing and northeastern China via Tianjin, Qinhuangdao, and the coast. This new line has allowed “full” HSR services to connect northeast China with Shanghai.
The new Zhengzhou-Xuzhou HSR isn’t massive, either, at “only” 362 km. Yet, for its mere 225 miles or so, this new line, good for speeds upwards of 350 km/h (217 mph), formed a crucial link — it was the first rail line good for such high speeds to connect between two of China’s most vital north-south HSR routes — the Beijing-Hong Kong and Beijing-Shanghai HSR routes. It also meant that my long-awaited connection from Xi’an (where I’ve ancestral roots) to Shanghai is finally reality. Most trains that run on this line “borrow” it to reach their final destination. ▶
Europe can throw weird things at you.
Sweden is probably the third nation I’ve seen across Europe that has had its stations inspired by our Helvetic font now used by much of Switzerland — from federal government logos and passports through to street signs — Frutiger. (The first I’ve seen was the Netherlands, and the second, Austria.) We made a second stop at Triangeln before arriving at Malmö Central Station, which at platform level looked like a cross between a Beijing Subway Line 15 station and Stansted Airport Railway Station. The inside was much nicer, though, and it could have been seen as the Scanian version of Beijing’s south station. ▶
I’ve done the entire London Tube system before I tackled those in Beijing and Shanghai, and I’ve been in both cities in China longer than what some might call “healthy”. (For Beijing, that’s 14 years in one go; for Shanghai, these included two visits in just one month in July 2009.)
So when my wife thought it was high time to “guide Brits coming into China for the trains”, I thought that it was also high time to introduce Britons to the way the rails work in China. Apart from a full-fledged post on Tracking China, I also took the time to compare the Beijing and Shanghai equivalents of London’s Central, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, and Victoria lines — or what could be the closest equivalents.
And this is when I ask all Londoners, Beijingers, and Shanghai folks to chime in. Is what I am posting below absolute rubbish — or can you somehow relate to these?… ▶
16:43:13 on 05 September 2015. As the District line train rolled into Richmond station, that was it for me — I had just travelled the entire length of all publicly advertised lines on the London Underground. Quite coincidentally, I had also finished all of the lines on the DLR and Tramlink networks.
The only bit of the rail networks I’ve still to do are all Overground routes, as well as all stations on National Rail. I’ll probably get these done before my upgrade to Beijing as early as mid-2016. The Overground does, however, leave me in awe — at just how it managed to pass through the oldest tunnel in London (for sure) — the Rotherhithe tunnel. ▶
Where do I get my car on Sundays? Heathrow Airport. Thankfully, you get to choose where you pick your car up — you in essence arrive at any terminal, then choose the desk of your car rental company. I decided to give the recently re-done Heathrow Terminal 2 a try some weeks back before I headed to my rental car company at the airport. The one thing that comes to you after 14 years in China is this perception that all airports have to be big. Chengdu’s Terminal 2 certainly stunned us, as it took us forever to get from the plane to our taxi rank at the exit. (Barcelona El-Prat was huge as well, but at least it was more compact.) So I was looking for Heathrow’s latest addition to be huge, certainly landside. After all, this came after Beijing Capital International Airport’s Terminal 3, so it had to be inspired by China, or aspire to be of similar dimensions. Right? ▶
Call it the 287 kilometres of HSR that mattered. That actually built bridges.
The month of December is when China’s HSR network will break that crucial 10,000 km barrier, and the new Tianjin-Qinhuangdao High Speed Railway started this breakneck “HSR Month”. A few other new lines, including Xi’an-Baoji, Xiamen-Shenzhen, and a new link from Hengyang East to Nanning, will make China’s HSR trains go just about all over the place.
The new Tianjin-Qinhuangdao HSR that opened today seems to be a mere minnow — it is just over 250 km in length. Yet these crucial miles connect two of China’s most important north-south HSR lines: Beijing-Harbin and Beijing-Shanghai. They are merely preparing the new line today: look for the real train service zoo in late December, when Harbin-Shanghai services will be offered. ▶
2013 is a new year for us, but this year is special — it will be the first year since 1987 where each of the four digits of the year is a different number. And that’s a hint for you to “be different” this year. Much like Apple’s former slogan, Think Different, set it out from the rest of the pack, being different and going to different places is probably the best way to start the new year right, and to give you one of those beginnings you won’t quite easily forget.
Probably the best way to start this new trip is to take to somewhere totally new on the first day itself. I still remember my first short-haul trip right on 01 January 2012, when I took the train to Langfang — not too far away, a mere 60 km outside of Beijing. But at least I got off my sofa and went somewhere. I think you can do more than just 60 km in the new year: try heading to a city or a country you’ve never been to — ideally on the first day. It’s time to get out of your comfort zone and into newer territories.
After being probably scared to death last year about “Are we going to die in 2012?”, I’m sure you’ve been scared as much as I’ve been. The good news is: We just about all survived. So here’s a thing: take into the new year and go places. ▶
The one thing I liked about Paris back when I visited it in around 1996 or so was the Metro. This thing was fantastically easy to use, despite a heck of a Châtelet-les-Halles interchange.
I didn’t really get my feet wet on an accelerator pedal in Switzerland despite getting my licence there — because the trains and the trams worked so much better. Especially in First Class, with less riders, you could finally have your piece / peace of mind (don’t know which one to use), and on better trains, get power and start typing away.
It kind of hit me, then, about my obsession on the rails… I think it is more a Green thing than a geek thing. ▶