BEIJING, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- China on Friday launched a new high-speed railway service that connects Beijing with Harbin, capital of the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.
A newly unveiled 192-km-long section, running from Beijing to Chengde, in the neighboring Hebei Province, started operation Friday morning. Combined with two previously opened sections, the Beijing-Harbin high-speed railway extends 1,198 km.
The new railway service forges a closer link between the national capital and the northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang.
With a designed speed of 350 km per hour, the service is expected to shorten the travel time from Beijing to Harbin to about five hours, around one and a half hours less than the previous fastest railway route.
The first section of the route, extending from Shenyang, capital of Liaoning Province, to Harbin, was put into operation in 2012. The section from Shenyang to Chengde began service in 2018.
Three sets of Fuxing bullet trains that can operate under temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees have been put into operation for the first time on the railway.
China's railway operation mileage reached 146,300 km by the end of last year, with 37,900 km of high-speed railways, data from China State Railway Group Co., Ltd. showed.
Fan Yijiang, an expert with the National Development and Reform Commission, noted the route is an important part of China's high-speed railway network, which completes the high-speed railway link between the southern and northern regions of the country.
"In an era when speed and efficiency are paramount, shortening the travel time will add new values to areas along the route," Fan said.
The new route is expected to inject more economic vitality into northeast China as the region now has closer ties with the more prosperous Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
Harqin Left Wing Mongolian Autonomous County in western Liaoning, a once remote place, embraces new development opportunities thanks to the railway.
Beijing-based Chaoyang Tongmei Xtal Technology Co., Ltd. has invested 500 million yuan (77.4 million U.S. dollars) to set up an industrial park in the county that manufactures materials for semiconductor production.
"Now it takes just over an hour to travel from Beijing to the county with the new railway service, which is an important factor that drives our investment decision," said Liu Wensen, general manager of the company.
Li Kai, deputy dean of China Academy of Northeast Revitalization, said the railway is set to accelerate the revitalization of northeast China, an old industrial base of the country.
In 2020, an innovation center was set up in Shenyang as part of a cooperation between the local government and Beijing's technology hub Zhongguancun. The center has initiated multiple key projects on promoting intelligent manufacturing.
"With a solid industrial foundation, the northeastern region needs the support of funds, technology, and talent, which are all advantages of Beijing and its surrounding areas," Li said.