Beijing: The world’s longest high-speed rail line, which spans over half of China, began operational Wednesday.

Two trains departed from stations in Beijing and Guangzhou at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively, to mark the opening of the 2,298-km line, reported Xinhua.

Running at an average speed of 300 km per hour, the new route cuts the travel time between Beijing and the southern metropolis from more than 20 hours to around eight.

A total of 155 pairs of trains will run on the new line each day, and alternative schedules have been made for weekends and peak travel times, according to the Ministry of Railways (MOR).

“The opening of the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed line shows that China’s high-speed railway network has started to take shape,” said Zhou Li, director general of science and technology of the MOR.

With the opening of the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed line, China now has more than 9,300 km of high-speed railways in operation.

The country aims to create a high-speed railway backbone featuring four east-west lines and four north-south lines by 2020.