In brief: Nearly all tickets for the new Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway have been sold out for 1 October 2011, China’s National Day.
Well, it had to happen, folks: The Beijing-Shanghai HSR is now officially sold out. If you’re planning to leave the Chinese capital on 1 October 2011, your chances are slim — even if you are willing to pay through the nostrils for it. A late-night check on 25 September 2011 (nearly a full week before 1 Oct) shows that all tickets for HSR trains leaving Beijing South for Shanghai are totally sold out.
Time machines aren’t in use here in China — so the only valid explanation why all tickets have gone is that they’ve been snatched en masse via Internet ticketing and via pre-bookings on and after 22 September 2011 (when tickets for 1 October 2011 became available for sale).
Completely gone on 1 October 2011 is the hotly-popular Train G1, which leaves Beijing South at 09:00, sprinting to Shanghai Hongqiao with a sole stop in Nanjing South in just 4 hours and 48 minutes. Even Business Class tickets on that train have just about vapourized. Also totally booked out (with even the Business Class, Panorama Seats and Deluxe Class tickets snatched in advance) are trains G101 (dep Beijing South 07:00 — the very first train of the day!), G31 (extended service to Hangzhou; dep Beijing South 08:05), G105 (dep Beijing South 08:10), G111 (dep Beijing South 09:05), G13 (dep Beijing South 10:00) and 13 more trains. The sole offers for D trains (cheaper but slower alternatives) come in the form of two soft sleepers for train D317, which takes nearly nine hours to finish the stretch.
When even the super-expensive Business Class (CNY 1,750! instead of CNY 555 for Second Class for G trains from Beijing South to Shanghai Hongqiao) seats get snatched en masse, this is a sure sign that the new HSR is popular. There would have been more trains had the CRH380BL trains not been recalled due to minor technical issues, but this would also mean something big politically (as the trains here are run directly by the government): that Chinese HSR may be knocked down as Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping calls it) after Wenzhou, but they’re a long way from being kept down. HSR critics might scoff at this phenomenon, wondering why thousands would play the HSR lottery and end up potentially dead before they arrive at the Shanghai terminus, but the fact is that the rails have never been safer than now in China.
You’ll probably have to wait for the second day (2 October 2011) if you want to escape the capital for Shanghai, it seems…