BEIJING (TheStreet) -- When it debuts in June, China's new high-speed rail connection from Beijing to Shanghai will cut the time it takes to travel the 1,318 kilometers by more than half from the current 10-hour timetable.

Usually a journey taken by air for business travelers and tourists, the train service will increase competition with short-haul commuter airlines in much the same way Eurostar did for travel between London and Paris. The flight between the two cities takes around two hours, but much more when time is added for getting to the airport in heavy traffic and delays inside the terminal -- bumping it up to four hours or more for a trip that can cost around $395 round-trip with advance purchase.

The 3-year-old Beijing South Railway Station, an oblong-shaped terminal designed by the U.K.'s Terry Ferrell, serves a high-speed rail connection to Shanghai set to launch next month.

The Beijing-Shanghai route was initially slated to come in just two minutes shy of a four-hour journey at speeds of up to almost 500 kilometers an hour. A world speed record was even established by the train on a test run late last year, with a top speed of 486.1 kilometers per hour -- faster than any other unmodified train for commercial use in history.

But a few weeks ago it was announced by officials from China's Ministry of Railways that all high-speed trains would be capped to a maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour starting this summer to increase energy efficiency, resulting in cost savings that should make high-speed train tickets more affordable to the average Chinese traveler.

Train speeds in excess of 350 kilometers per hours can use twice as much energy as those at slower speeds, as well as present far more safety concerns, according to reports by China's state media. It is uncertain how the speed limitation will affect the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line, but the changes would add an extra hour of travel time and certainly play into the argument that flying between the two cities is still faster.

China has more than 90,000 kilometers of high-speed rail lines, with another 30,000 kilometers being laid by 2020 that will give the country bragging rights to more high-speed rail than any other country. The increased rail access makes it easier, faster and cheaper to travel not only between cities but also from the more dense and wealthy eastern region to the developing interior.

While the exact mechanics of booking a ticket for the Beijing-Shanghai route has yet to be released, tickets for high-speed trains will likely be available directly for purchase online in addition to sales in terminals and offered on most Chinese trains. Buyers will also be required to provide full names to secure booking, likely aiding in security and making things harder for scalpers to buy tickets and re-sell them for a premium. It is unclear whether names will actually be checked before boarding.

Travel on the Beijing-Shanghai line will initiate at the 3-year-old Beijing South Railway Station, an oblong-shaped terminal designed by the U.K.'s Terry Ferrell, whose work includes London's Charing Cross Station and Seoul's Incheon Airport. The Shanghai end of the rail connection will be at the new Shanghai Hongqiao Station -- closer to the city's airport than the downtown business district that's accessed by metro, bus or taxi connection. Shanghai also offers direct high-speed rail connections to such cities as Nanjing and Hangzhou.

The actual trains will be CHR380 locomotives, some of which are already being used in the high-speed rail links between Shanghai and Nanjing. Originally the trains were to be equipped with airline-style luxury seats and lie-flat beds, but to keep down average ticket prices the luxury seats were scrapped for standard first- and second-class passenger configurations typical of existing high-speed rail lines.

The pared-down luxury is an attempt to pacify angry train travelers who often face sold-out routes on busier travel days but see high-speed rail lines traveling half-empty because of many can't afford the tickets. The average Chinese consumer can hope for better access to the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line when it opens to the larger public sometime in the next year.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.