China Railway High-speed (CRH) D3643: Nanning East to Guangzhou South by High Speed Train (Standing Ticket / 无座)

The China Railway High-speed (CRH) is the new backbone of China Railway, offering frequent trains throughout China. The CRH service are not seen as a premium, but rather, a typical train service, offered as the usual choice when purchasing train tickets from the counter.

D-trains, or Hexiehao Dongche (和谐号动车), are the second-fastest class of trains, running on upgraded conventional lines at average speeds of 200-250km/h, lower than dedicated high-speed rail lines. The D3643 will take me from Nanning East to Guangzhou South, and the train will continue onwards to Zhuhai, on the border with Macau.

I purchased my ticket from the railway travel agent across the road from Nanning Railway Station as the China Railway ticket counter in Nanning Railway Station was very crowded when I went there after arriving from Hanoi (Gia Lam). For an additional RMB 5 fee (~S$1.01), I skipped the queues and got the same ticket if I were to have gotten it from the railway station. Unfortunately though, the earliest departure, about 6 hours after my arrival as all earlier trains were sold out, was departing from Nanning East and had only Standing Tickets (无座) remaining.

The south courtyard of Nanning East Railway Station.

After security screening, head up to the waiting area.

There is a little market before heading up the escalators.

My train, D3643, would be departing from Gates A9 and B9, which probably means it’s going to be a 16-car train.

My Standing Ticket (无座) for the 4-hour ride from Nanning East to Guangzhou South. A Standing Ticket costs the same as a Second Class seat ticket at CNY169 (~S$34), plus CNY5 (~S$1.01) agent fee.

All the best to me.

The waiting hall of Nanning East. There is just one big waiting hall, without any segregation for each gate.

Departure boards can be found around the waiting hall.

The scale of the waiting hall as seen from the dining floor above.

Queuing for ticket checking and to enter the platform.

Ticket checking for Cars 9 to 16 was at Gate A9, with Cars 1 to 8 taking Gate B9.

As I was holding a red non-magnetic ticket, ticket checking was done at the side counter, with the first staff checking for passport details and the second one cutting the ticket to validate it.

Heading down to Platform 9.

My train to Guangzhou South, ready for departure.

The sign for the D3643 bound for Zhuhai at 4.56pm. The sign also states that Car 12 is the immediate car upon reaching the platform from the escalator, Cars 13 to 16 are in front, and Cars 1 to 11 are behind.

The door to Car 14, my standing room for 4 hours.

The CRH2A 8-car set (1 of 2) on duty for D3643, which are the first batch of CRH trains, based on the E2-1000 Series Shinkansen design from Japan. This train is made up of 2 8-car sets, making it a total of 16 cars.

This set was built by CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co., Ltd. through technology transfer from Japan.

The interior of the Second Class coach.

The seat numbers are also reminiscent of those found in Japan. No seats for me throughout the journey though.

There are TV screens showing videos in the train car, however, these were silent throughout the journey.

The LED signs at the ends of the car show the train journey information.

I had expected the aisles to be crowded, but looks like Standing Tickets are also limited in sale.

Most passengers stood around the gangway.

The scenery from inside the car.

After departure, staff will come around to check for tickets, and to sell extension tickets if required.

The dining car is located at Car 13, with just a simple counter to order food without any seating space.

The available rice bento boxes for the day.

Purchasing my bento box from the catering staff.

My stir-fried beef with rice set. This costs CNY45 (~S$9.05).

The black pepper beef steak with rice set. Looks nothing like steak though. This costs CNY45 (~S$9.05) too.

As with all Chinese trains, hot water is available on board.

The western-style toilet on board the CRH2A.

The train ran at about 200km/h for most parts of the journey, with it running slower at just around 145km/h for about 30 minutes after departing from Nanning and 30 minutes before arriving at Guangzhou, which was pretty annoying. This would make the CRH almost equivalent to ETS speeds in Malaysia, but I guess this is what happens when you don’t have dedicated high-speed rail lines.

Pulling into Guangzhou South Railway Station.

Lots of new CRH trains here.

A last look at the CRH2A train, now standing by to depart for Zhuhai, on the border with Macau.

The modern Guangzhou South Railway Station.

The destination sign of the D3643.

It was to be an unsurprising on-time departure for this train.

Head down the platform to exit the station.

Blue ticket holders can use the automated gates to exit. Red ticket holders can use the side staffed exit.

The spacious arrival hall of Guangzhou South Railway Station.

From here, I continued to my hotel with the Guangzhou Metro.

Overall, having a Standing Ticket (无座) on the CRH is certainly a unique experience – imagine having one of the world’s first train ticket reservation style without any seat numbers (or seats for that matter), to stand for 574km of a journey of 4 hours on one of the world’s most utilized modern marvels for intercity travel. Despite the modernization of the railway in China, it seems that old styles and culture remain.

No complains for this standing situation though, considering that I’m able to make it to Guangzhou by night time, or else the next available train with seats would be yet another couple of hours away, or perhaps even the next day.

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