With fully reclining airline-style business class seats, a strict no-smoking policy and designed top speed of 350 km (220 miles) per hour, China’s new Beijing-Shanghai express embodies the country’s race to the future. The new rail line is the latest and most feted portion of a network the government hopes will stretch 45,000 km (27,960 miles) by the end of 2015. The high-speed rail line took just 39 months to build. The sleek white and blue train, called “Harmony” after President Hu’s “harmonious society” slogan — zips along its elevated track at 300 km (185 miles) per hour, bypassing flat fields and rubble-strewn villages. It is expected to cut travel time on the 1,318-kilometre (820-mile) route to under five hours. The line is designed to carry 80 million passengers a year, providing heady competition for the airlines on a route notorious for delays.
Inside, Harmony offers top-of-the line railway service. For just 1,750 yuan ($270), business class travellers are waited on by uniformed stewardesses. With a $34 billion pricetag, the project has had to face a fair share of critics who think it will struggle to ever make a profit. According to some critics, more affordable seats are what is essentially needed than luxury commuter lines. The Harmony clearly stands out as a testament to China growing appetite for luxury products and services today. Catch it on video here.