Duncan Peattie's Chinese Railway Timetable
Purchasers' Opinions of the TimetableTo 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
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
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]
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
We're looking forward to another trip starting next
Andrew Kooiman [Toronto, Canada - August 2005]
By all means. You may use my comments for your
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.
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
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,
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.
Tim Morton [Winchester, United Kingdom - August
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!
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...
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.
[Brisbane, Australia - June 2005]
I wanted to thank you for your excellent CTT.
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
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
I would highly recommend your publication to any foreigner
travelling in China.
Once again, many thanks,
Julien Renard [Ivanhoe, Victoria, Australia - February
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!
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