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China unveiled the world's fastest train (in average speed) last week.  (Source: Xinhua)

China plans to spend $1T USD to blanket its country with 16,000 miles of high speed rail, forming a unique state of the art transportation network. U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged a mere 2 percent of that sum ($13B USD) to our nation's own high speed rail efforts.  (Source: The Transport Politic)
China's $1T USD high speed rail gambit leaps ahead

High speed rail is right up there with electric vehicles when it comes to promising green solutions to transportation in the new millennium.  High speed rail uses electricity and mass-transit to drastically cut emissions when compared to automobile travel.  And it's expected to be far faster and more cost effective transportation method, albeit with some big up front costs for infrastructure.  Much as the original coal-burning locomotive and oil-burning automobile revolutionized transportation in the 19th and 20th centuries, the electric locomotive looks to transform society in the 21st century.

The U.S. under President Barack Obama has committed $13B USD in high speed rail investment.  That seems somewhat impressive until one hears about China's high speed rail commitment.  China
has already spent $259B USD on high speed rail and plans on spending a total of $1T USD by 2020 to install 16,000 miles of high speed rail track -- or roughly 1/3 of the length of the U.S.'s total interstate highway system.  

China put the exclamation point on its efforts last week with the unveiling of its flagship high speed rail model, the 380A train.  With a 236 miles per hour top cruising speed, the train is the world's fastest.

A handful of maglev trains can beat the 380A in top speed, but they are unable to sustain a faster average speed.  The "380" part of its name comes from its 236 mph cruising speed which translates into 380 kilometers per hour.  The train will offer a 4 hour ride between Shanghai and Beijing.  That cuts the trip time to less than a third of the driving time (12 to 13 hours).

A Chinese firm, Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., makes the impressive vehicles.  The first production model, the "He Xie", was unveiled last week at a ceremony in Changchun, the capital of the northeastern province of Jilin in China.  At the ceremony, the Chinese government pledged to purchase 100 of the speedy trains.

High speed rail will provide the Chinese economy with a unique advantage as it continues to grow and expand.  Business travelers will be able to make trips much faster and regain literally weeks in productivity each year.  And carbon emissions, long a sore spot for China, will be cut in a way that's
actually beneficial for the economy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. sees its own plans for high speed rail stalled as it ponders potentially less effective solutions for carbon control like "carbon-credits".  The 380A and China's high speed rail ambitions have led some to question if the U.S. will be left behind as the rest of the world embraces high speed rail.



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airplanes?
By Mizerable on 6/7/2010 10:56:55 AM , Rating: 1
why would we want to spend trillions building something redundant?

i'm guessing most people wouldn't need to go cross country more than twice or thrice a year, and for that Southwest or Delta works great.

what's the point of the train system ?




RE: airplanes?
By PandaBear on 6/7/2010 2:01:29 PM , Rating: 1
That's because if it is in high volume, train is cheaper than plane by a lot as long as it is already built.

We have a lot of special interest in keeping air travel the preferred way instead of rail, the cabs, the airlines, the unions, the oil companies. Having electric train would reduce the need for planes and the oil companies' profit, not something they wanted.

China has the money, and want to put it to good use in the long run because of the amount of people they have, even if it means going cross country only once a year they (and we actually) will have a lot of use to put in the infrastructure that will be there for a hundred year. After stimulating its own technology and economy, that $1T is going to return its investment in a couple decades.


RE: airplanes?
By Solandri on 6/7/2010 4:15:11 PM , Rating: 2
It has nothing to do with some conspiracy to keep air travel the way it is. Planes need about a half hour to get up to cruising altitude, and a half hour to get down. Cruise is where they're most energy efficient. So they're relatively inefficient for trips which take 45 min - 2 hours. That's about 250-1000 miles. Precisely the distances where high speed rail shines.

High speed rail makes more sense at those distances because they can get up to speed relatively quickly, while the travel time is not that much greater than for a plane once you factor in 1-2 hours spent at the airport.

At greater distances, people value the time saved by flying more than the cheaper cost of rail. A plane can cover L.A. to N.Y. in just under 6 hours. A high speed train would need around 11-12. A regular train needs days.


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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