Unless you have been hiding under a rock recently, you must have heard of the new high-speed train link from mainland China to Hong Kong. But does the service deliver as promised?
The new train link officially launched on September 23 this year. Granted it may not affect everybody’s daily life in Dongguan, but it is certainly something worth knowing about for future reference.
For somebody like me who travels to Hong Kong on a regular basis, the announcement was a revelation and one I was keen to try firsthand as soon as I could. My recent experience involved coming from the newly opened Kowloon station in Hong Kong, all the way back to Humen station in our beloved Dongguan. This distance is approximately 90 km and the new service boasts this in just under 40 minutes. Previously, my trips from Dongguan to Hong Kong would average at about four hours, so naturally I was very interested to do my own time-trial on the new link.
Having learned the hard way when attempting to buy tickets on arrival from high-speed train stations in China, anyone who is familiar with the Weekender column will know that I always stress buying and collecting tickets in advance wherever possible, to avoid frustration and disappointment. It was a little different this time, as I was unsure if there were any small outlets around Hong Kong to collect tickets as with the mainland. Regardless, I was still able to book my ticket in advance using the Ctrip app and was pleasantly surprised to see the hordes of fledgling English-speaking staff, eager to assist in their bright orange shirts.
There were many automatic ticket dispensing machines offering a discount for purchase by Octopus Card and when I showed an assistant the booking information on my phone, I was immediately ushered to a vacant service window where I paid 10 HKD to collect my ticket. The one thing anyone coming from Kowloon side must bear in mind is that if you use either of the metro connections to arrive there, there will be a 5-10-minute walk to actually get to the high-speed station itself. Given it was a weekday, but still rush-hour, I quickly passed through the baggage checks and immigration with hardly any waiting at all. The décor and layout were similar to stations in the mainland, but be warned if you go directly to the waiting area, there are no shops and you cannot access the restaurant facilities on the level above.
The initial stop at Futian took a mere 13 minutes, followed by arrival in Shenzhen North within 25 minutes. By the time I reached Humen, the stopwatch tallied 45 minutes. The notoriously congested Humen station has almost completed its expansion project and the transition from there onto the Dongguan metro was also straight forward. All in all, the trip took me three hours door-to-door, yet I felt I could have whittled it down, had I not given myself so much time beforehand. For me the experience was overall a positive one, but to get a wider perspective I decided to ask around to see what other people thought of the service.
Jerome Bryant from the U.S., a teacher based in Dongcheng recently tried the new service with his wife and child after returning from a trip to Thailand. He remarked “The lines were quite long as it was a Saturday morning, but the staff in Kowloon were amazing, giving us queue jump privileges for our baby son.” Preston Fant also from the U.S., a purchase manager based in Houjie tried it the other way from Humen; he stated “Apart from queuing in Humen station to collect my ticket, the whole trip was a breeze. I will definitely use a ticket office in future though!” Finally, Valentina Tao, a Chinese national based in Hong Kong commented “For me it is a game changer, I need to come back and forth to the mainland every week and this has halved my overall travel time. However, I am a little disappointed there are not so many services to Guangming station.”
All in all, it seems the new high-speed train link is an initial success, the unanimous verdict being that it saves time. There are regular daily trains from Humen to Kowloon and back with prices starting at 155-178 RMB for 2nd class. It will be interesting to see how the system copes with its first spring festival exodus next year, but for now it is a positive alternative for crossing the border.