A 536km high-speed rail line has opened in central China, connecting Zhengzhou and Wuhan, the capital cities of the Henan and Hubei provinces respectively.

The new line serves eight stations and reduces travel times between Zhengzhou and Wuhan to 1 hour and 56 minutes from 4 hours and 28 minutes.

Construction of the CNY57bn ($9bn) Zhengzhou-Wuhan high-speed rail line, which has a design speed of 350km/h, started in 2008.

Trains operate at up to 300km/h on the new line, which will initially carry 24 trains in each direction every day.

The Zhengzhou-Wuhan line is a part of the 2,300km Beijing-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, China’s longest high-speed line, which is scheduled to open by the end of 2012.

The new line connects many existing high-speed rail lines, including Wuhan-Guangzhou, Hefei-Wuhan and Zhengzhou-Xi’an.

The Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed railway is expected to improve communication between central and eastern China and increase passenger flows to stimulate local economic development.

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By the end of 2012, the new line will also connect Wuhan to the north region and to Beijing, making Wuhan the meeting point of the planned north-south Beijing-Guangzhou line and the east-west Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu line.

China is planning to build more than 16,000km of high-speed lines by 2020.