Tag Archives: train

Trains and Media: What Happens When You’re (Not) Informed

Apart from the all-important first year party of the Beijing-Shanghai HSR entering into service, there’s also something big — in fact, two things that are big:

  1. Trains 6417 and 6418 running their final runs between Beijing and Chengde; and
  2. Longjiaying Railway Station shutting down to passenger traffic

The former received a lot of coverage. I was, in fact, invited to a live show on Beijing Traffic Radio just to tell people that these super-cheap trains in Beijing were running their last runs. (At CNY 1.50 per full price ticket (from Beijing to Beijing East), it’s CNY 0.50 cheaper than the Beijing Subway!) The latter received just about no coverage at all.

And I’m telling ya, there’s a world of difference. What I’ve seen on Weibo recounts of a huge crowd by the Beijing East Railway Station, and tickets from Beijing to Beijing East being fully sold out. Quite on the contrary, there was no coverage of Longjiaying being bid its farewell. No TV crews, not even the random microphone from the local radio station. Nada. Tracy and I boarded Train D4532 — the last HSR service from the station — as totally normal people with no outside media coverage at all.

Most of you might be wondering now just where the heck this Longjiaying is. It’s a railway station between Qinhuangdao and Shanhaiguan stations (which also might not make sense: OK, it’s Beijing’s closest major coastline, beaches included*. It’s so reclusive, in fact, that road signs don’t make reference to this isolated stop at all. To a lot of us, Longjiaying seems to be one of the stations nobody must have any idea of. This yellow-ish station, handled by the QInghuangdao Vehicles Department of Beijing Rail, used to remain hidden to passing riders through to 15 November 2010. Before then, the only trains that’d stop here were those from dedicated railway routes carrying cargo.

This Tier 3 station suddenly became a major stop on and after that date, as Qinhuangdao station nearby underwent a massive expansion effort to accommodate HSR services to and from northeastern China (to come later this year or by spring 2013, latest). A bit further away than Qinhuangdao itself, this station is probably Station 3 of 4 in the massive Beidaihe-Shanhaiguan semi-conurbation, which is just west of the boundary with Liaoning. (Liaoning is already part of northeastern China’s three provinces.) This bit of north-northeastern China sports some very nice coastlines (plus a few crazy donkeys and camels that Tracy forced me onto… heh…)

Longjiaying is going to end service as a passenger station as today (30 June 2012) draws to an end. There are plans to, even if just provisionally, move passenger traffic back to Qinhuangdao (now redone and bigger, with the obligatory skybridge passageway). The only folks who knew this were die-hard train addicts, as well as train crew. They signalled the end of services to the station as, upon arrival, they removed, permanently, destination stickers on the trains. (The platform opposite our arrival platform already sported trains with new stickers indicating their future departure station at the nearby Qinhuangdao station.)

Apart from that, there were no signs from “society at large” that Longjiaying was finishing its final day. It’s pretty obvious, then, that the media plays a big role in this. Make the closure public via media — and you’d get a crowd. Close it covertly — and nobody’d know.

That’s how big the media is these days — even on Weibo (and microblogs in general).

* It’s also where the super-secret political meetings happen in the summers, as the “political bigs” gather in covert locations to determine just what the heck will happen to the Middle Kingdom as the temps get cooler. We know this because as our train pulled into Beidaihe, which is in this region, super-official-looking vehicles were spotted on Platform 1. Of course, there were no photos at all; the mere thought of that might land you one heck of a heavy political hiding!)