High-speed railway Zhengzhou -- Xi’an

A third high-speed line from Zhengzhou to Xi'an started operation on Feb. 6. Other lines will follow including a link from Beijing to Shanghai that may undercut one of Air China and China Eastern Airlines Corp.’s most profitable routes. The ministry aims to spend 700 billion yuan on rail this year and add more than 18,000 kilometers (11,185 miles) of high-speed track by 2020 -- enough to go almost halfway round the world.

“The high-speed train is invincible on this route,” said Tom Lin, 30, a civil servant in Guangzhou, who opted to travel by rail. “There’s no doubt it’s more convenient for trips to the cities along the line. Airlines can’t compete with trains for the spacious seats.”

High-speed railways will connect all of China’s provincial capitals and cities with more than 500,000 citizens by 2020, serving more than 90 percent of the population. “I dream of China running high-speed lines,” said Philippe Mellier, president of trainmaker Alstom SA’s transport sector. “The ministry won’t stop.”