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China's Shanghai and Hangzhou rail line is the world's highest average speed rail line.  (Source: Reuters)
China continues to advance its high-speed rail program

When it comes to high speed rail transportation, the U.S. is getting left behind. Europe and Japan have long championed high speed rail, and China is currently working 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 -- and spending $1T USD on the project.  By comparison, U.S. President Barack Obama has committed a mere $13B USD in high speed rail investment.  And where the U.S. deployment has struggled with landowner and property concerns, the more efficient Chinese system has simply relocated land owners (despite their protests) and started construction.

A few months back set a speed record (average speed, not top speed) of 236 mph (380 km/h) for its Shanghai to Beijing line.  This week it bumped that speed up even higher recording a speed of 258.9 mph (416.6 km/h) for its new train line between Shanghai and Hangzhou.

The previous train took approximately 80 minutes to cover the 125.5 mi (202 km) between the cities.  The new line will typically travel at around 217.5 mph (350 km/h), cutting that time to around 40 minutes. 

China currently has 4,300 miles of railroad track -- the most of any nation in the world.  While its trains aren't quite as fast at top speed compared to foreign models -- Japan's JR-Maglev train (unrailed), which achieved a speed of 581 km/h (361 mph) and France's TGV at 574.8 km/h (357.18 mph) (railed) -- in average speed it is unbeaten.

So why does the world care if China is beating it in high-speed transportation?  Well China's train system is not only high-speed, it is also high volume as well.  And at the end of the day it's offering its citizens days in extra productivity every year, which will likely have tremendous and unheralded benefits on the economy.  For example, the average citizen commuting on the new record-setting line will save approximately an hour and 20 minutes a day.

Of course the costs are tremendous and China has much work to go before it can reach its hyper-ambitious goals, like 1,000 km/h super-trains, it's clearly setting a blistering pace with technological advancements.

China's train lines are almost entirely managed by state-owned enterprises, though many are publicly traded on stock markets in Hong Kong and China.

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Interstate is already here
By farsawoos on 9/30/2010 11:59:13 AM , Rating: 2
I think something else to consider in all this, too, is that the reason we're so "behind" in high-speed rail is b/c we dumped so much money over the years into an interstate system for cars. While a lot of other countries, especially in Europe where countries are smaller and in close quarters, invested in mass transit to move their people around, we invested in an automotive infrastructure. I don't have any hard #'s, but it seems logical to conclude this was primarily b/c of geographical distance and the typical American "I do what I want!" attitude that the early auto industry played so hard upon. Europe and Japan are different cultures, and the land isn't nearly as large or spread out.

I think State and local governments should be paying greater attention to high-speed rail and mass transit than the Federal government. The geography's a bit more manageable, and I think you'd have a good chance of selling the concept of getting on the train to go to work or to a neighboring town, and leaving the car back at home for longer stretches and for transit to/from train stations. The Federal gov could then only be concerned with ensuring that States and local governments are all conforming to the same basic standards on stuff like rail specs, QA, maintenance schedules, etc.


RE: Interstate is already here
By SPOOFE on 9/30/2010 11:11:05 PM , Rating: 2
I don't have any hard #'s, but it seems logical to conclude this was primarily b/c of geographical distance

Sort of. It's also a matter of history; Europe is largely built on sites that were designated hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Greater centralization is what I'm getting at. Example: Over half of all French citizens live in or immediately around Paris.

RE: Interstate is already here
By Fritzr on 10/3/2010 3:03:45 AM , Rating: 2
The major selling point of the Interstate system was that it is a military asset. Wheeled & tracked vehicles can use the system to go to any part of US and any straight section can serve as a military runway. Rail can substitute for ground transport, but is much easier to disrupt. Also rail cannot serve as emergency air support.

American rail was and is being badly mauled by subsidized trucking. Passenger rail competes with air travel. Local metro rail competes with buses.

It will need a change in focus and cutback on subsidies to road transport before rail is a serious contender in US.

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