China unveiled on Wednesday the longest high-velocity train line in the world linking this capital with the country's most prosperous southern city, Canton, a stretch of track 2,298 kilometers (1,425 miles) long that puts the Asian giant in the leading position worldwide for this type of railway.

After a ceremony attended by government officials, the first bullet train to make the Beijing-Canton run departed at 9 a.m. from the capital's Western Station and one hour later the first train making the Canton-Beijing run departed from the other city.

The fastest trains on the line, with a maximum speed of 300 kph (186 mph), will make the journey in less than eight hours, compared to the 20 hours it takes by regular train service.

The trains travel through six provinces, where almost half of China's 1.2 billion people live and now the next challenge will be to get the Zhengzhou-Xuzhou railway directly linking the Beijing-Canton and Beijing-Shanghai lines up and running.

Recently, another important railway was inaugurated between Beijing and Harbin, on the Russian border, the first on the planet where bullet trains move through mountainous terrain, and - combined with the opening of the Beijing-Canton line - this means that travelers in China can travel from the country's far north to the south at high speed.

China now leads the world in high-speed rail lines, with more than 9,300 kilometers (5,766 miles) of such track.

The prestige of China's bullet train network was damaged in June 2011, when two of them collided, killing 40 people. EFE