Hong Kong's controversial bullet train gets off to smooth start

Hong Kong's controversial bullet train gets off to smooth start

Hong Kong's controversial bullet train gets off to smooth start

The Express Rail Link, or XRL, will allow passengers to travel from high-speed train stations in Shenzhen Futian and Hong Kong West Kowloon in between 14 minutes and 19 minutes, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

A new high-speed rail link between Hong Kong and mainland China launched Sunday, a multi-billion-dollar project that critics say gives away part of the city's territory to an increasingly assertive Beijing. "The joint checkpoints are just to make things more convenient and make border crossing clearance faster", one 39-year-old passenger who gave his name as Mr Chan said, saying he was travelling on the first train with his son.

The train travels the 26 kilometers (16 miles) through Hong Kong to Shenzhen across the border in China in just 14 minutes, down from about 1 hour now.

The project is part of a broader effort by the Chinese government to to integrate Hong Kong into the world's largest urban hub - the Pearl River Delta, which the Chinese call the Greater Bay Area.

Under a joint checkpoint arrangement, the station is divided into Hong Kong and Chinese port areas, with the latter falling under the direct jurisdiction of Beijing.

Some opposition lawmakers argued the move would be a violation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution under which it retained its own legal system and civil liberties after reverting from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong's controversial bullet train gets off to smooth start

Hong Kong has opened a new high-speed rail link to inland China that will vastly decrease travel times but which also raises concerns about Beijing's creeping influence over the semi-autonomous Chinese region.

While there have been questions over whether Hong Kong residents would be able to access foreign social media, largely banned in mainland China, in zones subject to Chinese law, some passengers arriving in Shenzhen, on the mainland side, were able to bypass China's so-called Great Firewall.

Many Hong Kongers were anxious that their social media services wouldn't work in Shenzhen but reported that, for now, they were still in communication with Hong Kong and had somehow escaped the Great Firewall of China which bans western social media services.

"This is definitely convenient in terms of time", said one passenger who gave his name as Mr Kwok and who was taking a train to visit his ancestral home in the southern Chinese city of Chaozhou.

A second-class ticket to Shenzhen costs $US11 (HK$86), while travelling to Beijing $US160.

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