1959: China’s first diesel locomotive, Dongfeng, comes into operation. Most trains in the national network are still steam powered.
1980s: Diesel and electric trains gradually replace steam trains.
1993: Commercial trains average only 48 kilometers per hour, losing market share to airlines and highways.
1997: The first of six “speed-up” campaigns over the next decade kicks off. These campaigns raise average, national rail speeds to 70 km/h by 2007.
1998: The trailblazing Guangzhou-Shenzhen rail route reaches speeds of 160 km/h using Swedish technology.
2007: The final round of speed-up campaigns ushers in the age of high-speed CRH trains using Japanese technology with top speeds over 200 km/h. These shave off two hours from the Beijing to Shanghai ride to just under 10 hours.
2008: The Ministry of Railways announces plans for an eight-line high-speed rail grid overlaying the existing rail network.
2011: The 380 km/h Shanghai to Beijing fast rail is due to open in June, cutting the 1,302 km journey to just under four hours.
2012: The Beijing to Guangzhou high-speed line will open with speeds between 200-300 km/h. East-west lines from Qingdao to Taiyuan, and Shanghai to Chengdu, will also open.
2014: The east-west line from Shanghai to Kunming is due to open with top speeds of 350 km/h. The north-south line linking Beijing to Harbin is also set to open.