China on Wednesday opened a high-speed rail route – the world’s longest – that will whisk passengers from the capital to major cities at an average speed of 300 kilometers per hour, marking a breakthrough in the country’s rail network.

China Central Television broadcast live reports of the first train’s departure from Beijing West Railway Station on Dec 26 to commemorate the birth of revered Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1893.

The new 2,298-kilometer (1,425-mile) line between Beijing and Guangzhou will take only eight hours, compared to the previous 22-hour travel time and includes 35 stops in major Chinese cities such as Zhengzhou, Wuhan on the Yangtze River and Changsha.

China’s super fast rail network, established in 2007, became the world’s largest in 2010 with 8,358 kilometers of track and is expected to double to 16,000 kilometers by 2020, according to AFP.

However, the country’s rail network has been grappled by graft and safety scandal following the 2011 collision of a bullet train collision which killed 40 people in the worst rail disaster in the country since 2008. The government was criticized for compromising safety standards at the cost of developing the network.

Authorities claimed they have improved maintenance, inspection of infrastructure and emergency response measures ahead of the new line’s opening.