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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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Why do we need to have high speed trains?
By wookie1 on 6/7/2010 8:47:57 PM , Rating: 3
We've got airplanes. They cruise at twice the speed, and save many billions of dollars on tracks that don't need to be laid down and maintained. The routes are flexible. The fares are relatively cheap, even with all of the extra fees laid on top of the fares.

The argument I see often is that you have to get to the airport early to clear security, etc. I'm not sure, but I imagine that security for bullet trains may come close to airplanes and negate this.

People have romantic thoughts about trains, and that is why they like them. See the comment above about watching the ground whiz by like a blur.

By IcePickFreak on 6/8/2010 1:53:30 AM , Rating: 2
I agree.

As if the US in any financial position to all of a sudden build a big train infrastructure to have a use for something like this, which probably wouldn't get used anyway. China is MUCH more reliant on trains than the US is, so ummm.. Congrats China?

We don't need to collectively, as a country, play keeping up with the Jones'. I can't remember the last time someone told me they went on a train to someplace. And I don't mean local area trips (<1 hour) where a high speed train would be pretty much useless.

Chinese-American's were a huge part of completing the Transcontinental Railroad which was a huge part of early America's success so it's almost fitting they're leading the way now.

An interesting side note, Foxconn employees in 2010 get paid approximately 5 times more than these railroad workers did in 1865, prior to the recent 30% raise Foxconn employees got. The US minimum wage in 2010 is approximately 5 times more than the US minimum wage was in 1967. (Not adjusting for inflation etc)

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