In China, trains are categorized by service and speed, which passengers can recognize by the different letters and numbers on the train (C, D, G, Z, T and K). Different letters indicate different types of the train. G-Trains are the fastest and also the most popular in China, with a maximum speed of 380 km/h. Then D-Trains rank as the second-fastest train, with a maximum speed of 250 km/h. Following are T-Trains, which were once the superfast trains in China but now have become “normal” trains. For example, from Beijing to Xi’an, a G-Train takes 4 hours and 40 minutes, a Z-Train takes 11 hours and 15 minutes, a T-Train usually takes 12 hours and 44 minutes, and a K-Train needs 14 hours and 36 minutes.
G-Trains (Gaotie) and D-Trains (Dongche) are the most popular trains; they are the newest, and totally different from other trains in China regarding speed, facilities and service.
As the fastest trains in China, G-Trains reach a maximum speed of 380 km/h, and the ticket prices are also the highest. In fact. , in China, although the maximum speed is designed to be 380 km/h, in reality most G-Trains run a speed of 200 km/h–250 km/h. A first-class seat for G-Train between Beijing and Shanghai costs 933 Yuan, and a second-class seat costs 553 Yuan. The travel time is between 4 hours and 48 minutes, and 5 hours and 6 minutes.
The second-fastest trains are D-Trains, for which the prices are cheaper than for G-Trains. Also, they usually travel at a speed of 170 km/h–200 km/h. An upper soft sleeper for a D-Train between Beijing and Shanghai costs 1043 Yuan, a lower soft sleeper 1173 Yuan, and a second-class seat 408 Yuan. The travel time is between 9 hours and 30 minutes and 11 hours and 45 minutes.
On G-train and D-train, seats are classified as first class, second class, business class and superior seats. Some overnight D-Trains are equipped with soft sleepers. There are four bunks in each enclosed compartment. Some deluxe soft-sleeper cars have two bunks in an enclosed compartment.
In a first-class cabin, each group of four facing seats side has two big seats with separate tables. In a second-class cabin, seats are similarly arranged, but one side has three seats and the other, two.
In a business-class cabin, seats arrangements vary on different trains. Generally, most seats are large, with two meters (6.6 feet) between them. The seats are adjustable, and passengers can sleep in the car. An aisle divides seats into two sides. In one row, there are two seats on the one side and one seat on the other. On some trains, VIP seats are designed into business class, which are also called sightseeing seats, as they offer a great window view and passengers can clearly see how the driver works. Note that not all G- and D-Trains have business-class cabins.
G-Trains and D-Trains offer a similar service and facilities for passengers. All are very new and modern with air-conditioning. The seat is big, with a separate table. For trains running over 6 hours, soft sleepers are provided. Clean, western-style washrooms are provided for separate cabins. The trains also depart from and arrive in modern railway stations. Most will stop at only a few stops between two not-so-distant cities, such as trains running between Beijing and Xian, Beijing and Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin, Shanghai and Hangzhou, and Shanghai and Nanjing. Some trains are non-stop.
As for other facilities, restaurant cars and canteen bars are offered. The floor of the entire train is carpeted. Bathrooms are provided hot and cold running water. Handicapped people and passengers with kids can use the toilets specially designed for them.
C-Trains refer to high-speed trains running frequently between two not-so-distant cities. Usually, the journey will not exceed three hours, thus sleeper cars are not provided. Take Jingjin Intercity High-speed Railway for example: A C-Train will take 33 minutes to cover the 120 km. In fact, not only C-Trains but also many G-Trains and D-Trains also offer this service running between two cities. This is the case for such trains traveling between Shanghai and Nanjing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, and Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
Z-, T- and K-Trains are classified by different speed and travel time, while they offer a very similar service and facilities on the train. Even their outer and inner appearance is similar, and tickets cost the same.
Z-Trains are also known as Zhida trains, and are the most popular among the three. They are all non-stop trains and most are overnight and equipped with sleepers (hard/soft/deluxe). Soft seats are provided in certain T-Trains. Z-Trains run at a maximum speed of 160 km/h. Although they are non-stop trains, sometimes they may stop at certain major stations, but passengers are not allowed to get on or get off.
The advantage of taking a Z-Train is time and cost savings. A G-Train traveling between Beijing and Xian takes 4 hours and 40 minutes at $86 for a second-class seat, while an overnight T-Trains takes 11 hours and 15 minutes from 8:43 p.m. to 7:58 a.m. the next morning at $69 for the lower soft sleeper. One can save money on accommodation and enjoy more time in the daytime.
T-Trains are short for Tekuai trains in Chinese, which means express trains. Usually, T-Trains run at a top speed of 140 km/h and only stop at a few stations that are major transport hubs along the way. A T-Train will take 90 minutes longer than a Z-Train from Beijing to Xian at the same price. T-Trains provide hard and soft seats, and hard and soft sleepers. All T-Trains are air-conditioned.
K-Trains refer to Kuaisu trains in Chinese, which indicates fast trains. The maximum speed of the train is 120 km/h. The difference between Z-Trains and T-Trains is that K-Trains stop at more stations, even including some stops in counties. But in general, these trains are OK.
These train codes have only numbers. Usually, there are four digits. Train codes starting with 1, 2, 4 or 5 indicate a top speed of 120 km/h, but stop at more stations on the way. Thus, they run slower than K-Trains. They are usually air-conditioned.
Train codes starting with 6, 7, 8 or 9 run at a maximum speed of 100 km/h and are the slowest trains. The appearance of these trains is often green, and there is no air-conditioning. They even stop at every station. All these factors explain why they charge the lowest ticket price. Don’t choose trains whose train codes contain only numbers at any time.