The Nanfang / Blog

Hong Kong-Guangzhou High-Speed Rail Delayed Until 2016

Posted: 04/16/2014 2:38 pm

The Hong Kong-Guangzhou high-speed railway hit a snag recently when Hong Kong Transport Secretary Anthony Cheung Bing-leung announced delays would force the high-profile project to delay completion until 2015 and not be in operation until the year after, the SCMP reported.

Cheung revealed that he was “totally caught by surprise” when he learned of complications that arose from the rain storm last month and geological difficulties incurred at the digging site. This construction delay could end up costing Hong Kong taxpayers millions of dollars, although Cheung didn’t speculate on an amount.

With the project first scheduled to be completed next year and now very much behind schedule, Hong Kong’s elected officials blasted Cheung for the delays.

Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People’s Party criticized Cheung for being irresponsible and told the SCMP, “Last year, he told us it was OK but now he expresses surprise. That means he did not cross check what the MTR Corp told him.”

Wu Chi-wai criticized Cheung for gross negligence: “I was surprised that he expressed surprise. As the principal official in charge of transport it is his job to monitor the MTR to ensure the project is delivered on time.”

Maybe there’s something about sitting in a freezing air-conditioned room all day that makes you burn with anger, but Hong Kongers should know that there’s an easier way — the Mainland way.

While the Chinese press has reported the news of the construction delay without the criticisms, they have gone one step further today by commemorating the reopening of the Guangzhou-Hong Kong railway. Yes, it’s time to acknowledge the benefits of the railways system that we have, and not the ones that don’t exist. At 35 years-old, this railway system has provided such valuable service despite not being any older than the “classic rock” music genre.

Who needs to arrive at their destination in under an hour when you can do it in under two-and-a-half hours? On a train that’s actually running? You’ve come a long way, baby!

No need to fret. Relax, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Photo: SCMP

Haohao

Shenzhen, Dongguan, Huizhou to Share Extended Subway Network

Posted: 04/14/2014 3:26 pm

The proposed inter-provincial transportation system announced last year that will connect the three cities of Shenzhen, Dongguan and Huizhou is promising to provide trips of only 60 minutes in length to commuters riding two trains under ideal circumstances.

The Guangdong Provincial Transportation Department announced its proposal up for ratification on April 11 that will unify the separate cities of the Pearl River Delta into a singular urban amalgamation. The proposal also outlines how a trip from one transportation hub to another should only take 30 minutes, and how the network will be extensive enough to allow commuters to walk to any downtown core area from a subway station in just 15 minutes.

Scheduled to be completed in 2030, the ambitious plan will see Shenzhen establish two subway lines to Huizhou, and another three to Dongguan.  The entire subway network will consist of three north-south lines, four east-west lines, and a subsidiary line in addition to new road and railway network that would see commuters travelling from Guangzhou to Hong Kong in one hour’s time.

Things do sound good in theory, though we’ve seen that things put into practice aren’t as ideal. The Shenzhen-Xiamen high-speed rail which broke down in a tunnel recently was touted to last only three hours, whereas it now journeys for four. Still, commuters are able at present to enjoy features like surfing free internet to pass the time as others drop the gloves, their civility  or a diamond deuce.

Photo: Nandu

Haohao

Guangzhou to Receive Renovated Train Station, New Bus Lanes

Posted: 04/10/2014 2:08 pm

guangzhou train station

The new and extended subway and trolley lines we told you about yesterday aren’t the only planned improvements to Guangzhou’s infrastructure. The City Formerly Known as Canton is looking to change up its image by revitalizing with speed and convenience.

The Guangzhou Railway Station is turning 40 today, and like any other person suffering from a mid-life crisis, the venerable Communist infrastructure will be getting a face lift after having been through so many different eras of prosperity.

The National Development and Reform Commission jointly announced with the Guangzhou Railway Group that the railway station will undergo extensive reconstruction in 2016 to allow for high-speed rail service and other improvements, NewsGD reported.

The ambitious plan will see the main terminal building rebuilt, and the construction of an additional nine to twenty platforms. The extensive renovations can only begin two years from now because a detour to allow freight trucks to circumvent the railway station will be required to be built first.

Furthermore, Guangzhou may soon see the addition of dedicated bus lanes. The city is now welcoming proposals to construct bus lanes to the downtown core as well as to the city’s outlying area.

In other developments regarding the proliferation of fast and easy transportation in Guangzhou, there have been mounting complaints against the growing number of “black cabs” that haunt Guangzhou East Railway Station, a problem claimed to be ignored by authorities.

Photo: Chinanews

Haohao

Guangzhou to Construct 12 New Subway Lines by 2016

Posted: 04/9/2014 11:42 am

You’ll be making your morning commute from the exotic locales of Guangzhou’s far-flung suburbs and satellite cities in the near future. PRC National Development and Reform Commission have announced that 203.9 billion yuan will be invested towards the construction of 19 transportation lines, Guangzhou Daily reported. Of these, 12 will be new subway lines or extensions of subway lines, and are to be completed by 2016

This new transportation infrastructure will lay a total 416.33 km of new track. Of note will be the implementation of a new electric trolley circuit that will connect Haizhu District, Guiguangtie Road, and Nanguangtie Road. Construction on this trolley circuit will begin building this year.

The 12 subway lines to be completed by 2016 will include the following. Check to see if these include your neighborhood:

  • Line 6 Phase Two (Changban–Xiangxue)
  • Line 7 Phase One (Guangzhou South Station–University City South)
  • Line 16 (Fenghuang Xincheng to Wenhua Park)
  • Line 9 Phase One (Fei’e Ling–Gaozeng)
  • Inter-continental Guangzhou–Foshan line (the Guangzhou portion from Xilang–Lijiao)
  • Line 4 South Extension (Jinzhou–Nansha Passenger Port)
  • Line 8 North Extension (Wenhua Park–Baiyun Lake)
  • Line 13 First Stage (Yuzhu–Xiangjingling)
  • Inter-provincial Dongguan–Shenzhen line from Xintang–Hongmei (Guangzhou portion)
  • Line 14 Phase One (Jiahewanggang–Jiekou)
  • Line 14 Subsidary Zhishi City Branch (Xinhe–Zhenlong)
  • Line 21 (Tianhe Park–Zengcheng Plaza)

Three more lines to be added in 2017, and the Inter-provincial Dongguan–Shenzhen line from Baiyun Airport–Guangzhou North Station to be completed in 2018.

Finally, there will now be more places to play with your phone and ignore your fellow commuters.

Photo: GZDaily

Haohao

Shenzhen-Xiamen high-speed train breaks down in tunnel for two hours

Posted: 04/2/2014 11:16 am

The Shenzhen-Xiamen high-speed rail suffered a malfunction on March 31 that delayed the trip by approximately two hours, reports What’s On Xiamen, an incident that may come to hamper weekend revelers from making plans out of town this spring.

The D2319 lost electricity at approximately 4:39 pm and came to a halt in the middle of a tunnel in Zhangzhou, plunging the train into complete darkness. Luminated only by emergency lighting, commuters were further stifled by a lack of air conditioning.

At first, train attendants would only explain to sweating and panicked passengers that, “The train has suffered a malfunction, and the trip will be delayed by one hour”. Said Mr Zheng, a passenger in the number 2 compartment: At the time when the train stopped, I smelled a heavy scent of burning tar, as though something had been scorched. After about ten minutes, the smell dissipated.

The lights and AC would finally come back on at 6.11 pm, and the train would resume normal operations at approximately 6.30pm.

The official Weibo account of the Nanchang Railway blamed the malfunction upon a “floating material that came into contact with the electrical network and disrupted train operations”, and apologized to its commuters.

Readers may remember the recently opened Shenzhen-Xiamen high-speed rail as a trip touted to last only three hours long. However, Monday’s ill-fated train was scheduled to have a four hour journey, setting out from Xiamen at 4:02 pm and expected to arrive in Shenzhen at 7:58 pm.

On the positive side, it looks as though tickets prices now cost less than previously reported. According to Tieyou.com, an economy ticket for the Xiamen-Shenzhen high-speed train is priced at RMB 150.5, while a first-class ticket costs RMB 181. Now you can use your savings to purchase glow sticks and extra batteries.

Photo: 163.com

Haohao

Shenzhen taxis getting fancy new screens, multiple payment options

Posted: 02/20/2014 9:50 am

Shenzhen’s taxis are about to go upscale.

The city is installing five inch LED screens in taxis that will show your location on a map using GPS, and perhaps most importantly allow for multiple payment options. That’s right, soon you can pay for your taxi using your Shenzhen Tong travel card, Unionpay, or even Alipay account.

The device will also have other features to assist the driver, such as call centre alerts. At the moment, taxi drivers need to pick up their phones to answer phone calls from the call centre, which isn’t always safe to do. To cut down on the chance of an accident, the driver can now just press a button on the screen to call back or answer phone calls.

There are about 16,000 taxis roaming the city’s streets, and all of them are slated to receive the new device by the summer.

Haohao

Shenzhen to roll out free wi-fi in hundreds of buses by summer

Posted: 01/23/2014 4:52 pm

Shenzhen is cementing its role as China’s most technologically-advanced cities by rolling out free wi-fi on more than 300 public bus routes later this year.

The city already offers free wi-fi on the metro, while Uber provides it when it sends a swanky car to pick you up.

The Shenzhen government announced the program, saying 14 bus routes will be selected as the pilot by March, with a full roll out to all 327 bus routes by the end of June.

Now if only wi-fi could be introduced on airplanes.

(h/t @mstandaert)

Haohao

5 Problems with Uber in China (but why it’s still great)

Posted: 01/6/2014 1:36 pm

[Ed Note: This is the slightly modified version of a post on Larry Saliba's blog called "I Bring Order to Chaos". It is reprinted here with his permission.]

Many of us in the China tech community have followed the Uber closely from afar – watching with jealousy as our friends in the valley and NYC tweet about riding around in Uber comfort. City after city in Asia launched Uber: Taipei, Singapore, Shanghai – but not Hong Kong! A couple weeks I got wind of a soft launch party for Uber Shenzhen. I was both curious to learn about and try the service as I was to see how a start-up that’s raised over a quarter of a billion dollars from the likes of Google and Goldman-Sachs rolls. So I dropped everything, grabbed my passport and took the HK$7 minibus to the border.

Happy hour

The soft launch party was a happy hour event at the Futian Shangri-la in downtown Shenzhen. It was a half-indoor, half-outdoor bar/tent venue. Uber’s Martin Li, the man in charge of the Shenzhen market, greeted everyone at the door. The usual Shenzhen English-speaking tech crowd was well-represented…over-represented in fact since Shenzhen is a Chinese city. But this wasn’t surprising since Uber is an American company and seems to have hired management from outside of China. Or perhaps the local tech crowd was too busy hanging out with local Internet giant Tencent celebrating its $100 million investment in Uber competitor Didi Dache?

It was great to chat with the Uber Shenzhen team and understand how they’re rolling out the service. Martin encouraged me to try the service and share any problems. Since finding bugs is what my company Pay4Bugs does, I was more than happy to oblige!

I tried Uber out roughly a half dozen times around Christmas and in this post, I’ll share the problems I saw and why I think they’re no big deal.

Stick with me to the end of the post…I’ve got codes to share that will get you two free Uber rides in Guangzhou and Shenzhen!

What’s wrong

1. Drivers haven’t bought in

I asked each of my drivers what they thought of Uber. All of them were concerned about the viability of the business model in China. One driver asked me if taking a cab wouldn’t just be easier after driving 30 minutes across the city the pick me up. Another was concerned that the cost of the car he was driving, well on the way to $100k, was more than Uber is chargingriders for the service. A valid concern consider Uber rates in Guangzhou are only marginally more than taxi fares. A third was concerned that no one besides foreigners and overseas Chinese seemed to be using the service.

2. Uber Shenzhen drivers don’t know the city

Shenzhen is an immigrant city in China. Very few people grew up there. Unlike cities like Guangzhou and Beijing where cab drivers are often locals who have spent their whole lives there, Shenzhen cab drivers are always from other parts of China. Uber Shenzhen seems have run into the same problem as the cab companies finding drivers who know the city.

My first Uber Shenzhen trip took 60 minutes and over 22 km to go what’s only a 25 minute 9 km trip if you follow Google Map’s out of date directions. It’s even less if you drive using road signs and a sense of direction instead of following GPS.

Subsequent trips in Shenzhen were much smoother, but all saw the drivers using GPS to find the location of landmarks so well known that someone like me who has never lived in Shenzhen and only driven in the city 2 or 3 times has no problem finding.

This was in stark contrast to Uber Guangzhou drivers that had no problem finding even the obscure locations I could throw at them as someone who lived in Guangzhou for the better part of 7 years. One even pointed out that the name I was using for a place was actually the name from a decade or so ago. None of them needed to use GPS. Impressive!

3. Uber Guangzhou needs to ditch the VW Passats

Uber Guangzhou offers Mercedes E-classes, Audi A6Ls and something called the VW Magotan. It turns out Magotan is just the name for the locally produced VW Passat. My first Uber Guangzhou trip was in one of these vehicles. I felt pretty silly watching empty VW taxi cabs pass me by that by using Uber I was paying more money and waiting longer to take a car no better than a taxi.

It seems to me that one of the biggest selling points of Uber’s black car service in China will be the face you gain by showing up in a luxurious ride with a well-dressed, professional driver. Showing up in a Passat instead of an Audi or Benz isn’t quite the same.

4. Uber needs to accept China Unionpay

As of this post, Uber only accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover as payment for trips in China. Chinese Yuan denonminated fares are converted to U.S. Dollars before being deducted from your credit card. This is a problem in a country where most credit cards are China Unionpay. You can’t very well expect some living in a country with foreign currency controls to make a cross-border foreign currency transactions to get home at night from their local bar.

But word from Uber is that they have deals with local Chinese payment firms in the works and hope to be able to accept Unionpay and other local payment solutions shortly.

5. Uber drivers can’t call non-mainland numbers

My first experience with Uber was a pick up at the Shenzhen Bay Immigration Control Point right after clearly immigration from Hong Kong.

The roads look like spaghetti on the map and there’s no way to tell if a given road on the map will allow an Uber car to drive. Apparently the position I gave my Uber driver on the map was some place that wouldn’t let private vehicles enter. He couldn’t call the Hong Kong mobile phone number on my Uber account because you need to enable international calling to call from mainland China to Hong Kong. I didn’t know he couldn’t find me. Luckily Uber Shenzhen’s Martin Li had added me on Wechat and sent me a Wechat message to let me know the driver couldn’t find me.

It seems to me one on of the biggest customer bases of Uber, especially Uber China, will be people visiting from overseas used to using Uber in their home market. Are Uber users expected to update their accounts with local phone numbers whenever they travel?

So why do I love it?

Uber changes the social dynamic of transportation in China. It takes away the stress of getting from point to A to point B. No more running after taxis. No more driving in circles around parking garages looking for a spot. No more random people asking you for money to “watch” your car parked on the street. No more automated traffic “infraction” tickets issued by corrupt local governments. No more interrupting the flow of the evening with a noisy phone call to your driver or a car service…a few quiet taps and your Uber will be waiting. No more excuses from the fu’erdai, or rich second generation that they need to drunk drive their expensive imported luxuries cars to and from clubs because they need face. No more wallets stuffed full of tiny taxi fapiao.

I showed the app to some friends at a dinner in Guangzhou…the type of people that drive nice cars everywhere even if it’s inconvenient. They asked me…what car do you get? I pointed out the plate glass window at the A6L and Uber driver in a suit. Their eyes grew wide before they looked down at their phones and started searching the App Store for the Uber app.

Are you in Guangzhou or Shenzhen and new to Uber? Use the code LarryGZ or LarrySZ to get two free rides! Sign up here!

Have you tried Uber in China yet? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Haohao

Guangzhou-Shantou highway to open up eastern Guangdong

Posted: 12/10/2013 2:00 pm

A new highway is under construction that will open up eastern Guangdong. Right now, the only way to travel to the eastern part of the province is via the Shenzhen-Shantou highway, which gets incredibly clogged during holidays with Chaoshan people heading home. That congestion should be eased somewhat in 2015, when the Jiebo Highway is completed.

Nanfang Daily reports the name of the new road refers to either end of the highway, which extends from Jiexi to Boluo. The Guangdong Provincial Communication Group told the paper the project started in June, and will be the second major thoroughfare connecting the PRD with the Shantou area.

Travelers on the Jiebo highway will take only four hours to get from Guangzhou to Shantou, one hour faster than when using the Shenzhen-Shantou highway. It will also help open up eastern Guangdong – which is beautiful – to a bit more tourism and development.

Haohao

Shekou’s transformation continues, new ferry terminal being built

Posted: 12/6/2013 7:00 am

If you haven’t been to Shekou and Seaworld Square lately, you’re in for a surprise. Much of the construction around the square has been completed, and a whole new complex has opened to the west of the big boat.

The complex resembles Sanlitun Village (for those familiar with Beijing), and will even come with Shenzhen’s very first Element Fresh. The Tavern, a popular bar from Guangzhou, is one of the first spots to have opened, and was already full on our last visit.

The Hilton Hotel Shekou has opened, and there’s a new 100-floor office tower in the area. That’s right, this isn’t your grandpa’s Shekou. To complete the overhaul, a new ferry terminal is in the works. It will open within three years, and be built right where the current one is. Shenzhen Daily talked to some passengers who lamented the crumbling facility:

Shekou’s ferry terminal is more than 30 years old. People have complained about the two-story terminal’s limited space, lack of an escalator, inconvenient links to transportation and insufficient food services.

An unidentified passenger who uses Shekou ferry services frequently said the terminal’s waiting hall is routinely filled to overflowing on weekends. Sometimes it’s hard to find a place to stand and people have to wait in the public square outside the terminal’s entrance, the passenger said.

The question now is this: if the new ferry terminal will be built where the current one is, what happens in the meantime? That hasn’t been answered yet, although some speculate an interim terminal might be used. If not, get set to navigate around construction for the next few years.

For all of the ferry terminal’s faults, it’s still a nice open, breezy, and quaint building that stands in stark contrast to the tourist-filled Shun Tak Centre in Hong Kong. It’s been part of many a warm welcome back to the Mainland.

Haohao
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