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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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RE: Left in the Dust
By Ammohunt on 6/7/2010 2:08:28 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking hte same thing. So they have the fastest high speed train in the world..Europe has the best Train transportation system in the world and it operates at a loss and is propped up with Government subsidies not unlike AmTrak. France had the Concorde...

RE: Left in the Dust
By JediJeb on 6/8/2010 2:32:44 PM , Rating: 3
Plus in China they don't have to worry about years of Environmental Impact Studies and other red tape that would make it cost 10x as much if built here in the US. We could have it half built and someone would discover it would kill some rare cockroach because it interfered with their breeding grounds. Then the whole thing would be canceled or twice as much would need to be spent to make a tunnel for the cockroaches.

If we build it, who will ride it? That is another question to be asked when thinking of building a similar system in the US. Also where would we need one? Of course you would not use something like this as a intra or inter city commuter system on the east coast, because then you would need to build it right through all the heavily populated areas and that would be a nightmare. Coast to coast would work, right through the middle of the country, but then people traveling from New York to LA would rather take a plane because it is faster and most likely cheaper unless it is heavily subsidized. And if that is where it went how would you protect 3000 miles of high speed rail track from damage by terrorists or animals when we can't even secure half that much distance of our borders?

As much as I like the idea, I really don't see it being practical in the US any time soon.

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