Despite traveling at 300km per hour, as of today, it is now possible to order take away to your train seat. No longer do you need to circumnavigate the misery of the plastic yellow trays of microwaved mush-with-rice. And, yes, of course, you can pay by WeChat.

The official train booking system, 12306, has allowed restaurants to integrate with the high-speed train network. So far, 27 stations offer the service (see list below) as part of the pilot, but only along the high-speed bullet train (高铁) network.

A new food delivery icon has appeared on the 12306 app

Passengers can use the 12306 app or website to order food from a station along their route and must place the order at least two hours before they are due to reach the station. The food is prepared by the restaurant, delivered to the station, loaded on to the train and then brought right to your seat.

We planned a fictitious journey from Beijing through to Shenzhen to check out the options. Beijing is notably absent from the first batch of stations offering the service. We would have to pack our own breakfast, but moving on to lunch the options opened up and we could have dumplings delivered for RMB 28 plus RMB 8 delivery—similar to using food delivery apps when not on a bullet train.

Enter your train number (beginning with G or D) to pick a station

We were a little disappointed at the choice available on day one as there is a lot of fast food with KFC, Dicos and McDonald’s, but we hope for high-speed improvements. As the system develops it should be possible to order the specialties of the region’s you speed through.

Passengers do not need to have bought their train tickets through the 12306 app or network to be able to use the order service. Once you’ve got the ticket, you can order food with your ticket and contact details.

Choose a restaurant and book two hours before you get there—the app calculates the cut off point

While so far the system is still controlled and not open to the likes of Meituan-Dianping, it will still come as a relief to passengers in China who have long complained of the poor options on board the country’s rail network.

Finally, you choose from the menu and pay via WeChat

The service is currently available at:

Changchun, Changchun West, Changsha South, Chengdu East, Chongqing North, Fuzhou, Fuzhou South, Guangzhou South, Guiyang North, Hangzhou East, Hankou, Hefei South, Jinan West, Lanzhou West, Nanchang West, Nanjing South, Nanning East, Shanghai Hongqiao, Shenyang Bei, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan South, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen North, Xi’an North, Xining and Zhengzhou East

Frank Hersey

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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