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China

China launches world's longest bullet train service

The world's longest, high-speed rail route has begun service. Trains will be able to complete China's 2,298 km (1,428 miles) line running between Beijing and Guangzhou in eight hours.

The first high-speed "bullet" train left the Chinese capital Beijing early Wednesday morning. During its trip to the southern city of Guangzhou, the train will travel at an average speed of 300 kilometers per hour (186 miles per hour).

China Central Television broadcast the first train's departure live from the Beijing West Railway Station.

State media said the bullet trains would cut the time of the journey, which normally takes 20 hours on standard rail, to just eight hours. There are 35 stops on the Beijing-Guangzhou line, including major cities such as Zhengzhou, Wuhan on the Yangtze River and Changsha.

China's high-speed rail network was established in 2007, and quickly became the world's longest with 8,358 km of track by the end of 2010. That number is expected to nearly double to 16,000 km in by 2020.

But the network has been marred by accidents and scandals, most notably a deadly bullet train collision in July of last year that killed 40 people and caused public outrage.

The government was criticized for expediting the track's completion at the expense of safety standards.

dr/jm  (AFP, dpa)