China opens world's longest high-speed rail route

The BBC's Matthew Stadlen looks ahead to the high speed line's launch

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China has officially opened the world's longest high-speed rail route, linking the capital Beijing with the southern commercial hub of Guangzhou.

The first bullet train left Beijing on Wednesday morning. Trains will initially travel at 300km/h (187mph), more than halving travel time.

A Chinese official has described the route - parts of which were already in operation - as "one of the most technically advanced in the world".

The 2,298km route will have 35 stops.

They include such major cities as Wuhan and Changsha.

The previously 22-hour journey will now take less than 10 hours.

The decision was taken to start the passenger service on 26 December to commemorate the birth of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong, state media said.

China is currently expanding its high-speed rail network across the vast country.

But the ambitious project has not been free from controversy.

Forty people died last summer in a crash on a rapid train line in eastern Zhejiang province and the entire high-speed scheme has been dogged with reports of corruption.

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