The first train began its 400-km long trip from Nanning, Guangxi's capital, at 9:38 a.m.. It was expected to arrive in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, at 10:30 p.m..

"After the first train, all trains will leave Nanning at 6:15 p.m. and arrive in Hanoi at 7 a.m. the next day. There will also be a train departing Hanoi at 8:30 p.m.. It reaches Nanning at 10:05 a.m. the next day," said Chen Boshi, director of Nanning Railway Bureau, which operates the railway line.

The trains, each with eight air-conditioned carriages, can carry up to 249 passengers.

The regular passenger route will help meet demands of businessmen, laborers and students traveling between Vietnam and Guangxi, Chen said.

"People from Southeast Asia can have easier access to China once railway networks are linked to Nanning. Travel and trade will be facilitated in the region."

Previously, temporary passenger rail service from Nanning to Hanoi only ran on Tuesday and Saturday.

Xinhua - January 1 , 2009