Inter-city rail

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A high-speed Acela Express train traveling on the busy Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. Acela old saybrook ct summer2011.jpg
A high-speed Acela Express train traveling on the busy Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C.

Inter-city rail services are express passenger train services that cover longer distances than commuter or regional trains.

Commuter rail passenger rail transport service that primarily operates between a city center, and the middle to outer suburbs

Commuter rail, also called suburban rail, is a passenger rail transport service that primarily operates between a city centre and middle to outer suburbs beyond 15 km and commuter towns or other locations that draw large numbers of commuters—people who travel on a daily basis. Trains operate following a schedule at speeds varying from 50 to 225 km/h. Distance charges or zone pricing may be used.

Regional rail, also known as local trains and stopping trains, are passenger rail services that operate between towns and cities. These trains operate with more stops over shorter distances than inter-city rail, but fewer stops and faster service than commuter rail. Regional rail services operate beyond the limits of urban areas, and either connect similarly-sized smaller cities and towns, or cities and surrounding towns, outside or at the outer rim of a suburban belt.


There is no precise definition of inter-city rail; its meaning may vary from country to country. Most broadly, it can include any rail services that are neither short-distance commuter rail trains within one city area, nor slow regional rail trains calling at all stations and covering local journeys only. Most typically, an inter-city train is an express train with limited stops and comfortable carriages to serve long-distance travel.

Express train a train which travels fast and makes few stops

Express trains are a form of rail service. Express trains make only a small number of stops, instead of stopping locally. In some cases, trains run express where there is overlapping local train service available, and run local at the tail ends of the line, where there is no supplemental local service. During overnight hours, or other times where it is practical, express trains may become local, but still running to where an express train would terminate.

Inter-city rail sometimes provides international services. This is most prevalent in Europe, due to the close proximity of its 50 countries in a 10,180,000 square kilometre (3,930,000 sq mi) area. [ citation needed ] Eurostar and EuroCity are examples of this. In many European countries the word "InterCity" or "Inter-City" is an official brand name for a network of regular-interval, relatively long-distance train services that meet certain criteria of speed and comfort. This use of the term appeared in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and has been widely imitated.

Eurostar High-speed railway service connecting London with France, Belgium & The Netherlands

Eurostar is a high-speed railway service connecting London with Amsterdam, Avignon, Brussels, Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Disneyland Paris, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Paris, and Rotterdam. All its trains traverse the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France, owned and operated separately by Getlink.

EuroCity train in Europe

EuroCity, abbreviated as EC, is a cross-border train category within the European inter-city rail network. In contrast to trains allocated to the lower-level "IC" (InterCity) category, EC trains are international services that meet 20 criteria covering comfort, speed, food service, and cleanliness. Each EC train is operated by more than one European Union or Swiss rail company, under a multilateral co-operative arrangement, and all EC trains link important European cities with each other.


The speeds of inter-city rail lines are quite diverse, ranging from 50 km/h (31 mph) in a mountainous area or on undeveloped tracks to 200–350 km/h (124–217 mph) on newly constructed or improved tracks. As a result, Inter-city rail may or may not fall into the category of higher-speed rail or high-speed rail. Ideally, the average speed of inter-city rail service would be faster than 100 km/h (62 mph) in order to be competitive with car, bus and other methods of transport.

Higher-speed rail

Higher-speed rail (HrSR), also known as high-performance rail, higher-performance rail, or almost-high-speed rail, is a jargon used to describe inter-city passenger rail services that have top speeds of more than conventional rail but are not high enough to be called high-speed rail services. The term is also used by planners to identify the incremental rail improvements to increase train speeds and reduce travel time as alternatives to larger efforts to create or expand the high-speed rail networks. Some countries use the term medium-speed rail, or semi-high speed rail instead.

High-speed rail type of rail transport

High-speed rail (HSR) is a type of rail transport that operates significantly faster than traditional rail traffic, using an integrated system of specialized rolling stock and dedicated tracks. While there is no single standard that applies worldwide, new lines in excess of 250 kilometres per hour (160 mph) and existing lines in excess of 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph) are widely considered to be high-speed, with some extending the definition to include lower speeds in areas for which these speeds still represent significant improvements. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen, the first such system, began operations in Japan in 1964 and was widely known as the bullet train. High-speed trains normally operate on standard gauge tracks of continuously welded rail on grade-separated right-of-way that incorporates a large turning radius in its design.

Bus Large road vehicle for transporting people

A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry many passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-deck rigid bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are used for longer-distance services. Many types of buses, such as city transit buses and inter-city coaches, charge a fare. Other types, such as elementary or secondary school buses or shuttle buses within a post-secondary education campus do not charge a fare. In many jurisdictions, bus drivers require a special licence above and beyond a regular driver's licence.

Distance of inter-city rail

The distance of an inter-city rail journey is usually at least 50–100 km (30–60 mi), although in many large metropolitan areas commuter and regional services cover equal or longer distances.

A distance of 100–500 km (60–300 mi) is a common journey distance for inter-city rail in many countries. In many cases, railway travel is most competitive at about 2–3 hours journey time. Inter-city rail can often compete with highways and short-haul air travel for journeys of this distance.

Highway A public road or other public way on land

A highway is any public or private road or other public way on land. It is used for major roads, but also includes other public roads and public tracks: It is not an equivalent term to controlled-access highway, or a translation for autobahn, autoroute, etc.

In journeys of 500–1,000 km (300–600 mi), the role of inter-city rail is often replaced by faster air travel. Development of high-speed rail in some countries increases the share of railway for such longer-distance journeys. The Paris-Marseille TGV (750 km or 466 mi, or 3 hours) and Tokyo-Aomori Shinkansen (675 km or 419 mi, or 2 hours 59 minutes) are examples of this type of journey. In conventional non high-speed rail, overnight trains are common for this distance.

Air travel form of travel in flight vehicles

Air travel is a form of travel in vehicles such as helicopters, hot air balloons, blimps, gliders, hang gliding, parachuting, airplanes, jets, or anything else that can sustain flight. Use of air travel has greatly increased in recent decades – worldwide it doubled between the mid-1980s and the year 2000.

TGV Frances high-speed rail service

The TGV is France's intercity high-speed rail service, operated by the SNCF, the state-owned national rail operator. The SNCF started working on a high-speed rail network in 1966 and later presented the project to President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing who approved it. Originally designed as turbotrains to be powered by gas turbines, TGV prototypes evolved into electric trains with the 1973 oil crisis. In 1976 the SNCF ordered 87 high-speed trains from GEC-Alstom. Following the inaugural service between Paris and Lyon in 1981 on the LGV Sud-Est, the network, centered on Paris, has expanded to connect major cities across France and in neighbouring countries on a combination of high-speed and conventional lines. The TGV network in France carries about 110 million passengers a year.

Tōhoku Shinkansen Shinkansen (high-speed railway) line connecting Tokyo with the Tōhoku region of Honshu

The Tohoku Shinkansen is a Japanese high-speed Shinkansen rail line, connecting Tokyo with Aomori in Aomori Prefecture in a route length of 674 km (419 mi), making it Japan's longest Shinkansen line. It runs through the more sparsely populated Tōhoku region of Japan's main island, Honshu, and is being extended as the Hokkaido Shinkansen through the Seikan Tunnel to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and on to Sapporo by 2030. It has two Mini-shinkansen branch lines, the Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen. The line is operated by East Japan Railway Company.

In some countries with a dense rail network, large territory, or less air and car transport, such as China, India, and Russia, overnight long-distance train services are provided and used practically.

In many other countries, such long-distance rail journey has been replaced by air travel except for tourism or hobbyist purposes, luxury train journeys, or significant cost benefit. Discount Eurail Pass in Europe, Amtrak in the United States, and Indian Pacific in Australia are examples.

Faster high-speed rail of 350 km (220 mi), such as the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway in China (1,300 km or 810 mi, or 5 hours) and Tokyo-Sapporo in the proposed Hokkaido Shinkansen in Japan (1,030 km or 640 mi, or 4 hours), may play a significant role in long-distance travel in the future.

Overview of Inter-city rail by country

A Moroccan Inter-city train at Rabat station Train heading Fes at Rabat Train Station.jpg
A Moroccan Inter-city train at Rabat station


Railways in Africa are still developing or not practically used for passenger purposes in many countries, but the following countries have inter-city services between major cities:


East Asia


Trains run by China Railway link almost every town and city in the People's Republic of China mainland, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Xi'an, as well as onwards from Shenzhen across the border to Kowloon, Hong Kong. New high-speed lines from 200–350 km/h (124–217 mph) operation are constructed, and many conventional lines are also upgraded to 200 km/h (124 mph) operation. Currently there are seven High-Speed Inter-City lines in China, with up to 21 planned. They are operated independently from the often parallel High-Speed-Rail-Lines.

DMU tilting train express "Super Ozora" in Japan. The train type shown is a KiHa 283 series diesel multiple unit. JR Hokkaido Kiha 283 series 002.JPG
DMU tilting train express "Super Ōzora" in Japan. The train type shown is a KiHa 283 series diesel multiple unit.

Japan has six main regional passenger railway companies, known collectively as Japan Railways Group or simply as JR. Four JR companies operate the "bullet trains" on very fast and frequent Shinkansen lines that link all the larger cities, including Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and many more.

Many other cities are covered by a network of JR's "limited express" inter-city trains on 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), narrow gauge, lines. Major cities are covered by convenient train services of every one hour or more frequent. In addition to the JR Group, Japan has several major regional carriers such as the Kintetsu and Nagoya Railroads.

Hong Kong
Beijing-Kowloon Through Train, hauled by a SS8 electric locomotive, passing through Kowloon Tong Station in Hong Kong SS8 0192@KOT (20190313125921).jpg
Beijing-Kowloon Through Train, hauled by a SS8 electric locomotive, passing through Kowloon Tong Station in Hong Kong

Inter-city railway services crossing the Hong Kong-China border (often known as through trains) are jointly operated by Hong Kong's MTR Corporation Limited and the Ministry of Railways of the People's Republic of China. Currently, Hung Hom Station is the only station in the territory where passengers can catch these cross-border trains. Passengers are required to go through immigration and customs inspections of Hong Kong before boarding a cross-border train or alighting from such a train. There are currently four cross-border train services on the conventional line:

A new border-crossing service, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, has been approved and has been granted HKD 6.6 billion in funding by the Legislative Council's Finance Committee. The line has been opened in 2018 with a new station West Kowloon Terminus in the city centre.


Taiwan Island's coastline is connected by frequent inter-city train services by Taiwan Railway Administration. Taiwan High Speed Rail, opened in 2007, covers the most populated west-coast corridor. Chinese:對號列車

There are Chu-kuang express (莒光號) and Tze-chiang limited express (自強號).

South Korea
KORAIL ITX-Saemaeul ITX-Saemaeul.jpg

Almost every major town and city in South Korea is linked by railway, run by Korail. ITX-Saemaeul is operated in most Main railway lines like Japanese limited express or German Intercity. Also, Mugunghwa-ho is the most common and most popular type of intercity rail travel like German Regional-Express. In addition, Seoul and Busan are linked by a high-speed train line known as KTX, which was built using French TGV technology.

South Asia

A Rajdhani Express train, one of the fastest Inter-city services in India Train leaving KGP station.JPG
A Rajdhani Express train, one of the fastest Inter-city services in India

Indian inter-city trains are run by Indian Railways. With 63,000 km (39,146 mi) of rail routes and 6,800 stations, the railway network in India is the third-largest in the world (after Russia and China) and the largest in the world in terms of passenger kilometres. Shatabdi Express, Jan Shatabdi Express, Rajdhani Express and Duronto Express are the fastest Inter-city services in India of which the Bhopal Shatabdi Express is the fastest train of India.[ citation needed ] All long-distance journeys generally require a reservation and unreserved travel is allowed in some trains.

Sri Lanka

Southeast Asia


There is only one train service in Cambodia, from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, stopping at Doun Kaev (Takeo) and Kampot. [1]


In Indonesia, PT Kereta Api operates inter-city services in many cities, especially in Java. Inter-city serves some of Indonesia's major cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Surabaya, Medan, Padang, and Palembang. In Jakarta metropolitan area (or Jabodetabek), KRL Jabotabek operates the inter-city and commuter.


Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railways) operates loco-hauled express trains called KTM Intercity along Peninsular Malaysia and into Singapore. At the Malaysia Thailand border, connections to State Railway of Thailand trains are available. KTM Intercity trains are diesel-powered and run on a single-track 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge system. The rail track is gradually being duplicated and electrified. On the completed Central to Northern section (border), KTM runs the higher-speed Electric Train Service (ETS).


The Philippine National Railways have two inter-city rail trains: the Bicol Express and the Mayon Limited. The Bicol Express leaves Manila and passes through cities of Manila, Pasay, and Muntinlupa, along with the provinces of Laguna, Quezon, and Camarines Sur before arriving at Naga City. The trip clocks 10 hours or 600 minutes. [2] The Mayon Limited connects Minola and Ligao in 10 and a half hours. [3]


Trains in Vietnam, run by Vietnam Railways, link Hanoi, Hué, Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City.

Southwest Asia


Israel Railways operates inter-city services between all the 4 major metropolitan areas of Israel: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva and Haifa. However, due to the small geography of Israel, most of the railway services have a more suburban service pattern, with many short stops at stations between the major city centres.


Western and Central Europe

An InterCity 125 passes Ealing Broadway Station in London, England on its way to Swansea, Wales. This is the world's fastest diesel train and is used on various intercity services in Great Britain. 43002 Ealing Broadway.jpg
An InterCity 125 passes Ealing Broadway Station in London, England on its way to Swansea, Wales. This is the world's fastest diesel train and is used on various intercity services in Great Britain.

In Europe, many long-distance inter-city trains are operated under the InterCity (often simply IC) brand. InterCity (or, initially, "Inter-City" with a hyphen) was first conceived as a brand name by British Rail for the launch of its electrification of the major part of the West Coast Main Line in 1966, which brought new express services between London and the major cities of Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool. It later became the name of one of British Rail's new business sectors in the 1980s and was used to describe the whole network of main-line passenger routes in Great Britain, but it went out of official use following privatisation. The introduction of the British Rail Class 43 (HST) helped InterCity become an iconic brand in the 1970s.

The principal network of international express trains in continental Europe is called EuroCity, even though some IC trains also cross borders.

High-speed railways have relatively few stops. The German high-speed train service was named InterCityExpress, indicating its evolution from older InterCity trains. Other high-speed lines include the TGV (France), AVE (Spain), Treno Alta Velocità (Italy), Eurostar (United Kingdom–France and Belgium), Thalys (Netherlands–Belgium–Germany and France) and Railjet (Germany-Austria–Czechia/Hungary).

In Great Britain, the inter-city rail links are now operated by a number of private companies as well as Continental State owned railways such as Virgin Trains, Virgin Trains East Coast, East Midlands Trains, CrossCountry,TransPennine Express, and First Great Western. Ireland's inter-city rail network is maintained by Iarnród Éireann and Northern Ireland's is run by Northern Ireland Railways.

Eastern Europe

Sibirjak, passenger train from Berlin, Germany to Novosibirsk, Russia Sibirjak-03.JPG
Sibirjak, passenger train from Berlin, Germany to Novosibirsk, Russia

The Polish State Railways (PKP), a state-owned corporate group, is the main provider of railway services. The PKP group holds an almost unrivaled monopoly over rail services in Poland as it is both supported and partly funded by the national government.

As of 2018, foreign services operate on the Polish Railways network. These include EuroCity and EuroNight trains operating between Western and Eastern European destinations, most notably the EN 440/441 from Berlin via Warsaw to Moscow operated by Talgo train of Russian Railways company.

In 2019, new nightjet train from Wien to Berlin via Ostrava (CZ) and Wroclaw (PL) starts the service. "source 1".PD-icon.svgThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain..


Russia has a dense network of long-distance railways all over its vast territory, the longest and most famous being the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok. Long distance train routes of more than 1,000 or 2,000 km (621 or 1,243 mi) are common, with many trips taking two or three days. Speed is relatively low: trains average 60 or 70 km/h (37 or 43 mph).

North America


Canadian inter-city trains are mostly run by Via Rail and connect many but not all major cities. Ontario Northland Railway operates passenger service between Cochrane and Moosonee in Northern Ontario. International trains, run jointly by Amtrak and Via Rail, connect New York City with Toronto and Montreal. Amtrak operates the Amtrak Cascades service linking Vancouver and Seattle. The White Pass and Yukon Route links Alaska with the Yukon.

Tourist-oriented inter-city service includes the Royal Canadian Pacific and Rocky Mountaineer.


The Mexican federal government discontinued almost all scheduled inter-city passenger trains in January 2000. Ferromex operates trains on three routes: Chihuahua to Los Mochis, Torreon to Felipe Pescador, and Guadalajara to Amatitan. The President Enrique Peña Nieto has proposed intercity trains, the proposed projects are Mexico City–Toluca (construction began July 7, 2014), the Peninsular train (Yucatán-Mayan Riviera), Mexico-Querétaro high-speed train (with future expansion to Guadalajara) and Puebla–Tlaxcala–Mexico City.

United States

Westbound California Zephyr by Book Cliffs in Utah, U.S. Amtrak California Zephyr Green River - Floy, Utah.jpg
Westbound California Zephyr by Book Cliffs in Utah, U.S.

There was a dense system of inter-city railways in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After the decline of passenger railroads in North America in the 1960s, the inter-city lines decreased greatly and today the national system is far less dense. The most heavily used routes with the greatest ridership and schedule frequencies are in the Northeastern United States, on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders live in New York City. The two busiest passenger rail stations in the United States are Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, both in Manhattan, New York City. Passenger rail outside the Northeast, Northwest, California and the Chicago metropolitan area is infrequent and rarely used relative to networks in Europe and Japan.

Passenger lines in most of the United States are operated by the quasi-public corporation Amtrak. The separate Alaska Railroad (also government-owned) runs passenger trains in Alaska, and Virgin Trains USA rail service operating in Florida. The California High-Speed Rail system began construction in 2015 and aims to connect major job centers in California.

Multiple new rail corridors have been identified for private development throughout the country. These include the XpressWest corridor from Las Vegas to Victor Valley, California, the Texas Central Railway between Dallas and Houston in Texas, as well as others.



A NSW TrainLink H set at Sydney, Australia's Central railway station Cityrail-oscar-h3-sydcen.jpg
A NSW TrainLink H set at Sydney, Australia's Central railway station

In Australia the national interstate network operated by Great Southern Rail connects all mainland Australian capital cities except Canberra and Brisbane. Intrastate inter-city trains that traverse shorter distances are operated by V/Line, NSW TrainLink, Queensland Rail and Transwa. Many of Australia's inter-city trains are not true inter-city services, given their leisurely average speed and primary role to transport people between regional areas and the nearest capital city or for the tourist market. As a result, Australian networks refer to these services as "country" trains. The fastest intercity trains in regular service are the Queensland Rail Tilt Train, NSW TrainLink XPT, V/Line VLocity and Transwa WDA/WDB/WDC class, all of which have a top service speed of 160 km/h.

In Australia, electrified interurban commuter railway systems are used to connect urban areas separated by long distances and use heavy-rail equipment:

On these systems, services either run as limited-stop expresses in the suburban area (e.g. Blue Mountains services) or as shuttles terminating where the suburban lines end (e.g. Rosewood services).

A large-scale non-electric project of four regional lines (Regional Fast Rail) is operational in Victoria. Current interurban and intercity journeys outside the suburban area are often locomotive-hauled (particularly for longer-distance services), due to Victoria's lack of electrification outside of Melbourne.

New Zealand

In New Zealand there are currently three long-distance passenger services classed as inter-city: the Coastal Pacific, the Northern Explorer and the TranzAlpine. Their slow average speed is limited by the narrow Cape gauge and the rugged country traversed, particularly in the middle of the North Island, where the North Island Main Trunk has many sharp curves and steep gradients.

Other current non-commuter passenger services are long-distance commuter or scenic services: the Capital Connection, Seasider, and the Wairarapa Connection. A network of regional and long-distance rail passenger services up till the mid-twentieth century has largely been replaced by air or bus services.

South America

A few countries of South America were once interconnected by international train services, but today they are almost non-existent. Most governments in the continent have favoured roads and automobile transportation since the mid-20th century.


Argentina has inter-city services on a number of routes, run by Ferrobaires, Ferrocentral, and Trenes Especiales Argentinos. Trains in Argentina are experiencing a revival, since the government intends to re-establish long-distance passenger trains between major cities.


Inter-city train services in Bolivia are operated by two train companies: Eastern and Western. The western network runs daily trains from Oruro to Tupiza, with both espresso (fast) and WaraWara (slow) trains. The eastern rail hub is Santa Cruz de la Sierra, with connections to Puerto Suárez and Villamontes, and international lines to Brazil and Argentina.


Brazilian inter-city services operate on two routes, one from Vitória to Belo Horizonte and another from Carajás to São Luís.


TerraSur on Estacion Chillan. This is Chile's fastest inter-city rail service, reaching 160 kmh on the fastest section of its route TerraSur estacion Chillan.jpg
TerraSur on Estación Chillán. This is Chile's fastest inter-city rail service, reaching 160 kmh on the fastest section of its route

Chile has inter-city services connecting Santiago to Chillán (occasionally to Temuco), run by Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado. The fastest in Chile (and South America) is TerraSur, reaching 160 km/h.

See also

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Intercity bus service bus moving across the roads between towns and cities

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Guangzhou–Kowloon through train

The Guangzhou–Kowloon through train is an inter-city railway service between Hong Kong and Guangzhou jointly operated by the MTR Corporation of Hong Kong and the Guangzhou Railway Group of mainland China. Services operate along the East Rail Line within Hong Kong territory, crossing the Hong Kong-Chinese border at Lo Wu, and continuing along the Guangmao Railway and Guangshen Railway in Guangdong province.

Beijing–Kowloon through train

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Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link Hong Kong section Express Rail Link in Hong Kong

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Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link Railway line in China

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This article lists longest passenger rail services that are currently scheduled and running directly between two cities. This list is not complete due to the complexity of various railway systems, its timetables and difference in schedule administration between countries. To keep the list simple, only services that are point-to-point direct between two cities are listed. Services that require railcar exchanges, coach changes, shunting or station transfers are not listed.

Rail transport in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's rail network mainly comprises public transport trains operated by the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRC). The MTRC operates the metro network of Hong Kong and the commuter rail network connecting the northeastern and northwestern New Territories to the urban area. The operations of the territory's two leading railway companies, MTRC and the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC), were merged in 2007 on grounds of economies of scale and cost effectiveness. The Hong Kong Government has an explicit stated transport policy of using the railway as its transport backbone.

Futian station Shenzhen Metro station

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