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Imagine hurtling across the Central Asian steppe in a high-speed train, arriving in Moscow 30 hours after leaving Beijing. No, it doesn't sound like such a great idea to me either, but apparently investors both in China and Russia (more so in Russia) are excited about the possibility. Having taken the six-day, Trans-Siberian route about 20 years ago with Monkey Business, I can say that author Paul Theroux got this one right, describing the journey as "a long sleep punctuated by shorter naps."
In any case, depending on the ultimate routing, the greatest beneficiaries will be cities in the Russian Far East (imagine if you could arrive at Lake Baikal as quickly as Guangzhou) and any Central Asian countries that might see the track cross its territory (c'mon Kyrgyzstan!). The project will cost between USD 60-150 billion and will take 10 years.
This is one of those things where two factors must be considered: how much less expensive will a 30-hour train ticket be than an 8.5-hour air ticket, and, what will aviation and railway technology be like in 2025, when such a project might be operational? Right now, the train ride takes about four times as long as a flight. But what if some new advancement in aviation made it feasible to arrive in Moscow in only five or six hours? I guess we'll find out almost in time for the Winter Olympics after the one Beijing likely host in 2022. That's how far away this is from completion.
Elsewhere, there may still be time to grab some crazy deals from Hainan Airlines' one-day sale, which started Monday. We saw an online mention of one fare of Toronto to Beijing roundtrip for USD 705, including tax. Might be worth putting the dates in and seeing what comes up.
And for those of you for whom airfare deals are not such a consideration for travel, there's this: China is beginning to streamline the process for use of private jets around the country. Although general aviation still means mostly that people or companies buy planes, and then hire pilots to fly them, instead of learning to fly themselves. Anyway, it might be an option if you're at that level.
Photo: Dallas Morning News
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