Duncan Peattie's Chinese Railway Timetable

Purchasers' Opinions of the Timetable

To assist prospective purchasers to see if my full timetable is suitable for them I invited previous purchasers of the timetable to comment.  Here is a selection of the comments I have received - these comments are unedited (other than for format) and reflect the opinion of the writer, which may be different from my own opinion.  All comments on this page are published with the permission of the writer.

If you have purchased a copy of my full timetable and would be willing for your comments to appear here please contact me.


You most certainly can use my words, had I realised you might wish to do so, I would have rained even higher praise upon you & the timetable.

To a certain extent, some basic planning has been achieved in the past, using Travel China Guide website, then getting the national guide, on the organised part of my trip,to book train tickets for me.

Even after three previous trips to China though, I would not have had enough confidence to attempt booking trains on my own, until now, through being in possesion of your timetable & booking form.

I will be there again in a couple of weeks, with a lot less apprehension now.

Again, many thanks, regards

Jeff Cartledge.  [U.K. - February 2006]


Thanks for the advice on the update to your Timetable. I used your TT and booking form on my trip in July and it worked perfectly.

I started in HK went to Guangzhou, then to Kunming, Chengdu, Xian, Lanzhou, Hohot, Erlain and Ulaan Battar, then finished in Beijing.

My mate took some still photos of timetable boards for you on a video camera. But I have not found a way to take the stills of the video tape.

I also have a timetable amendment, handed out at Lanzhou station, for you too. I shall send it by mail.

We never met a China Rail employee who could speak more than five words of English but had no problems travelling or using your TT.

The only disappointment was, the TT and web sites I looked at said that the Yunan NG passenger service had closed. Which is not strictly true. The international service has closed but the local service to ? still runs. We photographed it by chance. However, we had booked on a train to Chengdu leaving later that day so could not go for a ride. I have photos of the TT boards at Kunming North Station on video.

Thanks again for all your good work, it was great trip and we could not have done it without your TT.


Gary Davey  [Melbourne, Australia - December 2005]

Hello Duncan,

We used your timetable on our last trip to China (Oct 2004) and it was fantastic! We traveled between Shanghai and Beijing, stopping at many places in between. The trip was a huge success, your timetable certainly helped a lot. I'd like to give a special mention to the train from Beijing to Badaling (Great Wall). On the way up through the valleys, tunnels and a switchback, my father-in-law told stories about riding the trains during the Cultural Revolution.

We're looking forward to another trip starting next week!

Andrew Kooiman  [Toronto, Canada - August 2005]

Hello Duncan,

By all means. You may use my comments for your website.

Looking back I can say that our ability to interact with the Chinese railway system was almost exclusively due to your publication. Could we have figured it out in other ways? Maybe. But having everything clearly laid out for us before we landed was a pleasure in independent travel.

Your booking form also saved our bacon a number of times. In terms of practical usage, putting effort into that form is well worth it for users who actually travel in China without knowing mandarin. I'd be happy to help. The first comments off the top of my head is that when agents look at the form they don't understand why they are being given it. Maybe some bold-faced titles at the top indicating the nature/purpose of the form (to help in translating requests from English) would be lessen the confusion of the agent. Something like the equivalent of "CHINESE RAILWAY BOOKING FORM FOR ENGLISH SPEAKERS" in Mandarin.

Finally, I would love to know if you experienced the same level of difficulty we encountered in purchasing first class sleeper seats. It was almost random chance that dictated whether or not we would be allowed to purchase them, and there was almost no way to book first class sleepers in advance between two cities when you are not already in the departure city... as we discovered from your advice and de facto when we were in Beijing trying to buy tickets between Manzhouli and Hailar!

All the best,

Shady Kanfi  [Montréal, Canada - August 2005]


Thanks for your e-mail seeking comments on your China timetable. I am delighted to oblige.

I bought a copy of your timetable for a trip to China in October 2004. Having previously struggled with China Rail's own timetables on two previous trips, it was pure joy to receive your version. The immediate clarity was outstanding and it was so fast to use compared with the mandarin version. The general advice and information about train travel was sound and confirmed what I had previously learned the hard way. The ticket booking form removed any vestige of difficulty at the booking office. I applaud your efforts. Keep up the excellent work.

Kind regards

Tim Morton  [Winchester, United Kingdom - August 2005]


I found your timetable very helpful in both translating the Chinese publication (which can be bought in China in a similar format if you can read Chinese) and in providing a description of how the system works, what a train ticket looks like and for the "communication sheet" for asking the counter staff for tickets. I found this invaluable and even a good read!

Richard Hadfield  [Dublin, Ireland - July 2005]


Hi there, just got timetable, it is fantastic! Way beyond expectation. It has so much helpful info and looks like you put a lot of work into it. I look forward to using it in 'the field' later this year...
Thanks a lot

Alex  [Sydney, Australia - June 2005]

The first thing to comment on here is that the Chinese train system is very good. The trains are clean and run pretty much on time. In soft seat (first class) seats are numbered. If there is a failing, it is that there is no China wide computer booking system. This makes making a series of bookings from A to B then B to C and so on very difficult. Language is a problem, and for anything other than a short journey, taking a interpreter with you when you go to book is almost a necessity.

I found Duncan Peattie's Chinese Railway timetable of very great value during our time in China. Although we lived only 2 hours from Shanghai, the convenience of having his time table made it very easy to plan our visits to that city.

Then, when we planned longer trips, I can say without a doubt that we could not have done them without it. We were able to plan our itinerary and when it was all worked out, get it translated into Chinese for the various legs and go. Of course, we could only book the first leg because of the limitations of the Chinese booking system.

But a warning. It is not unusual for train numbers and times to change with very little notice. For a couple of yuan, you can buy a timetable from each station (probably the major ones only) each month. This is in Chinese, but, with cross referencing with Duncan's timetable, you can find your way around it.

Brian Mennis  [Brisbane, Australia - June 2005]

Dear Duncan,

I wanted to thank you for your excellent CTT.

My family and I returned to Melbourne last week after 7 weeks in China during which time we travelled from Beijing to Kashi (via Xi'an, Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Urumqi), then to Chengdu (by plane), Chongqing, down river to Yichang then to Zhengzhou, Guangzhou, Macau, Hong Kong, back to Guangzhou (plane to) Haerbin, then back to Beijing. Most of this we did by train, none booked beforehand, and it (nearly) all went like clockwork owing to the planning made possible by your excellent and invaluable publication. Twice we were unable to get our preferred soft sleepers, once because they were booked out, and once because there were no soft sleepers on that train. Otherwise everything worked out very well, largely because of the immense utility of your booking form and explanation of the meanings of a Chinese railway ticket.

I have one small suggestion for improvement - on two or three occasions we were initially issued with tickets for the wrong berths (which we were able to spot by carefully comparing the tickets given us with your example). The reason was that the booking clerk failed to read the booking form thoroughly. My suggestion is that you modify the booking form slightly in two ways - firstly make the Chinese characters in the top half larger and bolder and place them above the English translation (which could stay quite small and unobtrusive), and secondly it would be useful to add the Pinyin for the various seats & berths (hard, soft, upper, lower, etc.) to facilitate emphasising the correct requirement to the booking clerk. Another addition which might be useful for families or groups travelling together like us would be some way of indicating that the seats/berths were required in the same compartment.

I hope you will not take this as in any way an adverse criticism of your excellent work which saved us no end of trouble and possible disaster.

I would highly recommend your publication to any foreigner travelling in China.

Once again, many thanks,

Yours sincerely,

Julien Renard  [Ivanhoe, Victoria, Australia - February 2005]

The following review, by Victor Isaacs, is of the third edition of the timetable, but the contents remain applicable to the current edition.  The review appeared in the September 2003 edition of 'Table Talk', a publication of the Australian Association of Timetable Collectors (AATTC) - permission to reproduce it is acknowledged. The review was of a purchased copy, and I was not aware of it prior to publication.

"The compiler of this magnificent work has achieved the almost impossible: a comprehensive, understandable, easy-to-use T.T. of the Chinese Railway system, in English.

The T.T. commences with an index map of the system, followed by a table of contents, introduction and user guide. There is a comprehensive index, usefully in both Latin and Chinese characters, an index to trains and a practical note about what to expect when travelling on Chinese trains. A very useful, novel feature is a bi-lingual English/Chinese form which may be copied, filled-in and presented to booking clerks.

Most of the T.T. is compiled from the pages of the China Rail Publishing House T.T. Not only has the huge task of translation been done but the work has been re-arranged, as the C.R.P.H. T.T. deals with services in terms of trains and this work re-arranges them in the more familiar (to us) arrangement by lines. The T.T.s are all keyed to John Yonge's comprehensive China Rail Atlas, published by the Quail Map Co. The tables are clear and easy-to-follow.

The English T.T. includes all local lines, many of which do not appear in the C.R.P.H. T.T. In these cases, information has been obtained, as far as possible, from observations, including photographs of station wall T.T.s.

This work is a must for anyone contemplating travel to China. If you have no intention of ever travelling to China, there are still powerful reasons to obtain it as it is a must for the 'armchair' traveller. Even more, this T.T. is a superb example of the T.T. art and of how gifted amateurs can come up with better productions than the professionals!

Highly recommended."

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