Following the recent typhoon, airlines in Hong Kong are soon to be hit with another threat. The threat is Chinese bullet trains. On Sunday a new link to Hong Kong is set to open, adding the autonomous territory to the mainland high-speed network.
Since its inception, high-speed rail has been a risk to some local flights. While the time taken by the train may be a little longer, the price is often cheaper taking this into account. The reason being that the aircraft flies in a straight line. If something is in its way, it goes around it. The train must stay on the tracks. This means it may have to take a less direct route, and if the track is blocked then nothing can pass. A great example of this is snow. Snow drifts have the capability to close train lines for days at a time. With aviation, as long as you can clear the plane and the runway, you should be able to still fly.
A Threat To Cathay Pacific?
Cathay Pacific will probably be particularly worried by this launch. The airline currently flies to more than 20 destinations in Mainland China. 11 of these destinations will now be served by non-stop rail links. The Chinese bullet train can cost just half of what a flight does. This could particularly affect the carrier, as people who don’t mind how they travel with have more choice, and will naturally pick the cheaper option.
Yu Zhanfu, a partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants in Beijing, commented: “The fact that passengers will get off the train in downtown Hong Kong rather than at the airport on an island and then have to take another train ride to the city will prompt many to choose trains”. The fact that a train takes you from city centre to city centre is a clear selling point for the option.
Currently, most aeroplane trips require you to take a train or a bus to the outskirts of the city. Once you arrive at the airport you need to check in, pass security, etc… Then you arrive at the airport in the destination city, and once again you have to take a train or a bus to reach the centre. This doesn’t make any sense considering the convenience of the train.
Death Sentence For Flights?
The effect of the arrival of high-speed Chinese bullet trains has already been felt in the mainland. One such route is between China’s Chengdu and Xi’an. Prior to the arrival of the Chinese bullet trains, the frequency of flights was around several dozen daily. Since then this figure has fallen dramatically. Now around 3 flights operate per day on the route.
Only time will tell how severe the effect of the high-speed Chinese bullet trains will be for airlines in Hong Kong. How badly do you think they’ll be hit? Let us know below!