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  (Source: Shutterstock)
U.S. is left in the dust as China blazes ahead with $1T USD rail bid

America may be witnessing its descent into the twilight in terms of being on the bleeding edge of transportation technology.  This week China, the world's most populous nation opened the world's longest stretch of high-speed rail.

Linking the capital city of Beijing in the north with the southern city of Guangzhou, the 2,298 kilometer (1,428 mile) line has already began ferrying passengers at 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph).  The line will cut the fastest travel time between the cities from around 20 hours to only 8 hours, making it a day trip.

150 pairs of trains (300 total) will run daily along the line, which passes through the provincial capitals cities Shijiazhuang, Wuhan and Changsha.  

The rail line was not achieved without setbacks.  The bullet train project's supervisor, the former railway minister, and the ministry’s chief engineer were both detained in a corruption probe after a bullet train crash killed 40 people in mid-2011 and after a section of track in central China collapsed under heavy March rains.  China had to rebuild some of the line and slow test runs after finding corrupt contractors had used subpar building materials to construct sections of the track.

China rail launch
Chinese dignataries gather to celebrate the launch of the world's longest stretch of high-speed track. [Image Source: The Washington Post]

China, however, is not looking to let off the gas. It will have four major east-west lines, and three more major north-south lines by 2020, linking virtually every major city in China.  While the U.S. and other economic rivals initially expressed skepticism of China's ambitious rail plans -- which are expected to cost around $1T USD -- China has already achieved roughly half of its 18,000 kilometer goal for 2015, with 9,300 km (5,800 miles) of active high-speed track.

The Asian giant is also testing next-generation trains, which it hopes will travel at around 310 miles per hour, once again cutting travel time roughly in half.

The U.S., whose massively socialist national highway project was once perhaps the world's most ambitious and well-engineered transportation conduits, has balked at the proposal of a high-tech replacement for its aging government-owned roadways.  And the private sector in the U.S. has expressed precious little interest in such a project, due to the price and low profit potential.

China bullet train
One of the new bullet train hurtles down the track. [Image Source: Shutterstock]

It's hard to say for sure just how big an economic boost high speed rail will provide China, but it's expected to bring radical new opportunities to the nation.  To relate in U.S. terms, high speed rail would make commutes from Detroit to Chicago, Pittsburgh and New York City feasible for those willing to spend up to a few hours of their lives a day in transit possible, opening new job opportunities.

The U.S. has some high speed rail plans of its own, but the billions put forth by the Obama administration have been dwarfed by China's commitment, as have the program's respective successes.  With the activation of the Guangzhou and Beijing bullet train conduit, one has to wonder whether we are witnessing the passing of the technological torch from the U.S. to China, and what the economic impact of that leadership transition will be.

Sources: The Washington Post, Shutterstock



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RE: Correction
By vxmqzz on 12/27/2012 1:58:42 PM , Rating: 1
It's actually not that expensive considering the distance,

second class is about $150,
first class is $230

premium first class is $270

business class is $450

the main problem is 3G signal is not stable

Also, because of the high-speed rail, lots of airlines discounted their ticket price to 1/5 of normal price.


RE: Correction
By bug77 on 12/27/2012 7:07:45 PM , Rating: 3
According to Wikipedia, the nominal GDP per capita in China is just under $5,500. That's less than 40 second class tickets (though I think people living in the cities should be earning above the average). I say this is still luxury transportation, not bringing high-speed trains to the masses.


RE: Correction
By vxmqzz on 12/28/2012 4:24:50 PM , Rating: 2
According to wiki, China's GDP per capita is $8000 to $10000 in 2011, depending on who is counting, and ranked around 95th in the world. However this doesn't change the fact that it's the number 2 economy in the world. Considering it's 1.5b population, there are plenty of people that can afford a trip of $150, and most people don't take these long trips everyday.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_...


RE: Correction
By bug77 on 12/28/2012 5:44:26 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure you can read it any way you like, which why I specifically said "nominal GDP". Because those ticket prices are as nominal as it gets.

And while you are sure there are plenty of people that can afford the cost, there are others who aren't: http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2011/02/hi...


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