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Railway stations all set for takeoff

Railway stations in big cities near Shanghai will soon become check-in points for air travelers under a ground-breaking plan.


The government-supported project aims to lift liaison between air and rail traffic.


Luggage can be left at some out-of-town railway stations that would in a way become remote check-in terminals for Shanghai's Hongqiao and Pudong international airports, according to the project.


Shanghai Airport Authority, the local airport operator, said yesterday that a joint panel from the Shanghai construction and science commissions had agreed on the feasibility of the project steered by the authority.


The authority also said yesterday that some pioneering efforts may kick off before next year's World Expo.


Eight cities - Nanjing, Zhenjiang, Changzhou, Wuxi, Suzhou, Kunshan and Jiaxing, in Jiangsu Province, and Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province - have been targeted as the first in the project, the airport manager said yesterday.


The cities all have busy passenger services with Shanghai by highway, rail and air and are all less than three hours away from the city by any means of transport.


"This situation provides a sound platform for us to step up coordination of air and rail traffic between Shanghai and these cities," Tian Jiuqiang, a Shanghai Airport Authority official, said yesterday.


Some of these cities don't have an airport or their airports do not offer international flights so travelers have to commute to Shanghai carrying burdensome luggage.


"Travelers will be able to review updated flight information at both Shanghai airports, buy air tickets as well as check in and consign their luggage directly at any of the eight railway stations in the near future," Tian said.


"It's common for people from other cities to arrive the night before their flight at Shanghai airports or early in the morning for their evening fight. Trains will ensure timely service compared to road traffic."


The airport operator, while confident of the project's success, is well aware of the challenges ahead.


Tian said many of the railway stations needed a drastic upgrade to their luggage transport, security and Customs facilities to meet airport check-in procedures.


The airport authority has not announced the cost in setting up the system or whether it will receive financial aid from the Shanghai government.


(Shanghai Daily June 30, 2009)