China is to speed into the record books on December 26 when it opens the world's fastest and longest high-speed passenger rail link between Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province and Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province.

The 1068.6 kilometer (664 mile) run between the two cities will take around three hours at speeds that average 350 kph (217 mph), according to China's Xinhua news agency. This will make it the world's fastest - and longest - passenger link, beating France's high-speed TGV system, currently the fastest passenger service in operation. A recent test run achieved speeds of nearly 400 kph (249 mph).

The project, China's second line over 300 kph (186 mph), cost an estimated 116.6 billion yuan (€11.9 billion) to complete. Tickets for the route went on sale December 19, with prices ranging from 490 to 780 yuan (€47 to €79), putting pressure on domestic airlines that cover the route. CSA, China's largest domestic air carrier, announced it was introducing a "Guangzhou-Wuhan Air Express Route," featuring mobile phone boarding passes and prices from 390 yuan (€39).

"In response to the pressure from high-speed railway, we increased the density of shuttle flights in Guangzhou-Wuhan and Guangzhou-Changsha route," said Mr.Tan Wan geng, president of China Southern Airlines. "In the long run, the coming of high-speed railway age is rather an opportunity than challenge to our airline company. China Southern is expecting cooperation with the railway company to extend the market and develop more packaged travel products for the passengers."

The Chinese government has committed to building over 30 high speed passenger rail lines with a length of over 13,000 kilometers (8077 miles) over the next three years, covering almost every major city. On completion, China will have one of the most advanced high-speed rail systems in the world.

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