China Railway Network

Written by Vivi Updated Jul. 29, 2022

As of 2020, China’s railway network stretches for 150,000 kilometers (93,000 miles), making it the second-largest rail network in the world. The Rail network covers almost every city and town in China. The national 3+5 grid of main rail lines has been completed. This article will introduce several main railways, including three horizontal lines running in the east-west direction and five vertical lines running in the north-south direction.


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Horizontal Lines (East – West Direction)

Beijing – Baotou – Lanzhou Railway

The 833-kilometer-long (517-mile-long) is comprised of two rail lines: Beijing – Baotou Line and Baotou – Lanzhou Line, with a design maximum speed of 120 km/h (74 mph).

Opened in 1923, Beijing – Baotou Line has a long history. It is terminated at Beijing Railway Station and Baotou Railway Station. Beijing – Baotou Railway is the main rail route leading to northwest China. It passes through North China Plain, the southern edge of the Inner Mongolia Plateau, Datong Basin, Inner Mongolia Plateau, and reaches Hetao Plain. It is not only an important passenger and freight railway but also a part of the international line that connects Mongolia and Russia.

The Baotou – Lanzhou Railway connects Baotou in Inner Mongolia and Lanzhou in Gansu Province, with a length of 990 kilometers (613 miles). It connects the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Gansu Province, and the cities of Baotou, Yinchuan, and Lanzhou, together with the Beijing - Baotou Railway, constitutes a transport channel from Beijing to Lanzhou.

Baotou Railway Station

Lianyungang – Lanzhou – Urumqi Railway

The Lianyungang – Lanzhou – Urumqi Railway consists of Lianyungang –
Lanzhou Railway (Longhai Line) and Lanzhou – Urumqi Railway (Lanxin
Line). It crosses through six provinces from the east to the west: Jiangsu,
Anhui, Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Xinjiang, with a total length of 3,652
kilometers (2,269 miles).

The Lianyungang – Lanzhou Railway starts from Lanzhou Railway Station in the west and ends at Lianyungang Station in the east (formerly known as Lianyungang East Station), with a total length of 1759 kilometers (1,090 miles). The design speed is between 140 km/h and 200 km/h. The maximum operating speed of the train can reach 160 km/h. Lianyungang - Lanzhou Railway passes through the cities of Xuzhou, Shangqiu, Kaifeng, Zhengzhou, Luoyang, Sanmenxia, Weinan, Xi’an, Xianyang, Baoji, Tianshui, and Dingxi, runs through provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, Shaanxi, and Gansu, and connects northwest, central and east China. It is the most important trunk railway running through the eastern, central, and western regions of China, as well as a part of the new Eurasian Land Bridge.

The Lanzhou – Urumqi Railway starts from Lanzhou City, Gansu Province in
the east, passing through Jiayuguan at the western end of the Great Wall of China, and ends in Urumqi, Xinjiang in the west, with a total length of 2,423 Kilometers (1,502 miles). The section from Lanzhou to Jiayuguan is a double-track electrified railway, and the section from Jiayuguan to Urumqi is a single-track electrified railway. It used to be the only railway line connecting Xinjiang and other places in China. It is an important part of the railway network in Northwest China.

Urumqi Railway station

Shanghai – Kunming Railway

Shanghai - Kunming Railway, also known as the Hukun Line, was opened in 2006. It is a main east-west railway connecting the cities of Shanghai and Kunming, with a total length of 2,633 kilometers (1,632 miles). The maximum running speed on this line is 160 km/h.

Shanghai – Kunming Railway passes through five provinces and regions Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, and Yunnan. It is an important passage from the southwest to Shanghai, as well as one of the national railway trunk lines. Major cities along this railroad include Shanghai, Jiaxing, Hangzhou, Yiwu, Jinhua, Shangrao, Zhuzhou, Kaili, Guiyang, Anshun, and Kunming.

Vertical Lines (North – East Direction)

Beijing – Shanghai Railway

The Beijing – Shanghai Railway, or Jinghu Line, is one of the most important north - east railways in China, connecting two major cities of Beijing and Shanghai. This line has a total length of 1,463 kilometers (907 miles) and passes through Beijing Municipality, Tianjin Municipality, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Anhui Province, and Shanghai Municipality. Major cities along this rail line include Beijing, Tianjin, Jinan, Xuzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi, and Shanghai.

The Beijing-Shanghai Railway passes through densely populated and economically developed areas in the east, and there are many important industrial cities and coastal economic development zones along the line. So it has become one of the busiest main railway lines in China. The maximum running speed on this railway is 160 km/h. Regular overnight trains from Beijing to Shanghai take about 15 hours.

Although the Beijing - Shanghai line has undergone many improvements and capacity expansion projects, the transportation capacity of the line is still becoming increasingly saturated. Therefore, the Beijing - Shanghai High-Speed railway was built to relieve transportation pressure.

Also read Beijing – Shanghai Trains.

China Railway

Beijing – Hong Kong Railway

The 1,538-kilometer-long Beijing – Hong Kong Railway, also known as Jingjiu Line, is the main transportation artery connecting the northern and southern areas of China. This railway starts from Beijing West Railway Station, passes through major cities of Shangqiu, Jiujiang, Nanchang, and Shenzhen, and ends at Kowloon Railway Station in Hong Kong.

The maximum running speed on Beijing – Hong Kong Railway is 160 km/h. In the initial stage of the Beijing-Kowloon Line, the direct express from Beijing west to Shenzhen needed 48 hours and 48 minutes, which was reduced to 36 hours after the national railway speed was greatly increased in 1997. After the fourth speed increase in 2001, T107108, the fastest train on the Beijing-Kowloon Line, only needed 24 hours for the whole journey.

Beijing – Guangzhou Railway

The Beijing – Guangzhou Railway, or Jingguang Line, is an important south-north transportation artery connecting Beijing and Guangzhou. This rail line starts from Beijing West Railway Station in northern China, passes through major cities of Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Changsha, and Hengyang, and ends at Guangzhou Railway Station in the south of the country, stretches 2,263 kilometers.

Beijing – Guangzhou Railway was opened in 1957, after two years of construction. After electrification in 1988, this railroad became a double-track railway. As of 2007, the Beijing -Guangzhou Railway has undergone many renovations, with a design speed of 160 km/h for the main section and 200 km/h for some sections. Regular overnight trains from Beijing to Guangzhou take about 30 hours.

Beijing Railway Station

Jiaozuo – Liuzhou Railway

Jiaozuo – Liuzhou Railway, or Jiaoliu Line, is a national first-class passenger and freight railway connecting the Jiaozuo City of Henan Province and Liuzhou City of Guangxi in China. The line runs from north to south, passes through North China, Central China, and South China, and is one of the three horizontal and five vertical trunk railway networks in China.

The Jiaozuo - Liuzhou Railway starts from Jiaozuo Station in the north to Liuzhou Station in the south, with a total length of 1655 kilometers, with a running speed of 120km/h. There are 179 passenger and freight stations along this railroad. This rail line and Beijing – Guangzhou Railway connect the southwest and northwest of China. It connects several major industrial towns and cities, together with the Taijiao Railway, which forms a north-south railway trunk line in central and western China.

China Bullet Train

Baoji – Chengdu – Kunming Railway

The Baoji – Chengdu – Kunming Railway consists of two sections of north-south rail lines: Baoji – Chengdu Railway and Chengdu – Kunming Railway, with a total length of 1,754 kilometers (1,089 miles). It passes through provinces Shaanxi, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan.

The Baoji – Chengdu Railway is located in the provinces of Gansu and Sichuan and Shaanxi. It starts from Baoji city of Shaanxi Province in the north and crosses the Qinling Mountains in the south to Chengdu city of Sichuan Province. It is a 668-kilometer-long national Railway class electrified Railway. It is a transportation artery connecting China's northwest and southwest regions, as well as the country’s first electrified railway.

The Chengdu – Kunming Railway starts from Chengdu Station in Sichuan Province and ends at Kunming Station of Yunnan Province. The total length of the line is 1,096 kilometers with 124 intermediate stations along the railroad. This railway, together with Baoji - Chengdu Railway, Chengdu – Chongqing Railway, and Guiyang – Kunming Railway, forms the major rail network in southwestern China.

More information about China Railway History.

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