Holiday trains put Yangtze River Delta rail network on fast track
About 200 tourists from Shanghai embarked on a five-day trip to Lu'an, in east China's Anhui Province, on Thursday morning, boarding a high-speed train at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station.
The trip signaled the launch of a raft of "holiday-style" tourist train packages in the Yangtze River Delta region.
Rail tourism in the region is projected to be on the fast track.
The high-speed rail journey from Shanghai to Lu'an takes about four hours.
"I have never been to Lu'an and I reserved the trip immediately as I would like to have a look at the beautiful city," said Liu Zhongqi, a Shanghai resident aged 72.
"I travel with my friends and traveling in a tour group is boisterous," Liu said.
Another Shanghai resident surnamed Qian, 68, is a travel buff.
"I visited Lu'an in 2011, and the trip one way took six hours as there was no direct train linking the two cities at that time, which was very inconvenient," Qian said.
"The Dabie Mountain scenic area is one of the legs, and I really look forward to the tour as it looks so beautiful," he added.
Qian said he has traveled to more than 40 countries and regions since he retired.
"I like traveling on high-speed trains because it is more convenient than air travel as I don't need to arrive the airport two hours prior to departure," he said.
Six tour routes allowing Shanghai travelers to appreciate the floral landscapes and natural beauty of Lu'an, to experience its folk culture and savor signature delicacies were launched by the culture and tourism authorities of Shanghai and Lu'an and travel agencies in Shanghai.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the national strategy of the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region, and the Shanghai Administration of Culture and Tourism is actively promoting cultural and tourism resources in the region, hoping to boost and expand cultural and tourism consumption.
The "Fun Travel in the Yangtze River Delta Region" tourist train alliance was established under the initiative by four travel operators in Shanghai, who will jointly develop and launch a number of tourist train packages utilizing the dense railway network in the region and the rich cultural and tourism resources of cities along the network.
Tourist train routes to Yancheng in Jiangsu Province, Jiaxing and Quzhou in Zhejiang Province, and Huaibei in Anhui Province have already been launched by the alliance.
In total, 100 such tourist train trips will be organized throughout the year, each carrying 600 to 800 passengers, said Li Li, deputy general manager of the Shanghai Railway International Tourism (Group) Co Ltd, a member of the alliance.
"We hope to integrate tourist resources in the delta region via high-speed trains as the region features the most convenient and developed high-speed rail network in the nation, thus powering the tourism integration of the region," Li said.
Two high-speed tourist trains carrying passengers from Shanghai to Quzhou and Huaibei are scheduled in April, with more to destinations including China's porcelain capital Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi Province, and the city of Huangshan in Anhui Province, home to the famed Yellow Mountain, yet to hit the tracks.
"We have received sizzling market responses with the 200 seats on the train to Lu'an fully reserved in one week, showing the popularity of travel by rail," Li said.
The tourist trains are not just a means of transport, but would facilitate cultural exchanges in the region, officials with the administration said.
China has built the world's most extensive high-speed railway network that stretches more than 42,000 kilometers, answering residents' growing demand for convenient and comfortable travel.
As of March 19, the railway network in the Yangtze River Delta region had recorded 20.73 million trips by passengers since the spring outing travel peak started, up 12 percent from the same period in 2019.
Ancient towns and rural villages were the most popular destinations, railway authorities said.