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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: Image
By yomamafor1 on 12/28/2012 4:12:12 PM , Rating: 2
That long, angled front is mostly for looks. A more blunt, rounded shape like the other picture is more aerodynamically efficient at subsonic speeds. Those principles of aerodynamics were figured out over a hundred years ago.

Uh... no its not. It's there for functional purpose. The angled front divert the air upward, to 1. facilitate minimal air resistance, and 2. to transition from rounded nose to square sized cars in the most efficient way.

Let's see what the Japanese, who builds the best high speed trains, have come up with.

RE: Image
By 91TTZ on 12/29/2012 10:29:12 AM , Rating: 3
The reason why this particular Chinese bullet train looks like that particular Japanese bullet train is because they copied its design.

The FASTEST trains in the world need to have a more aerodynamic shape, and the most aerodynamically efficient shape for subsonic speeds is a more blunt, rounded nose. I know it doesn't look as exciting but it's actually more efficient.

Here is the world's fastest conventional trainset. Note its blunt, rounded nose:

Here is the world's fastest operational train, the Chinese Shanghai Transrapid maglev. Also note its blunt, rounded nose:

Here is the train that set the world's record for a train at over 350 mph, the French TGV. Note its blunt, rounded nose:

I know it's a boring shape, but again, it's the most aerodynamically efficient shape at subsonic speeds.

What about cars? When Bugatti wanted to create the world's fastest road car they realized that a blunt, rounded shape was the most aerodynamically efficient for subsonic speeds, so they went with that:

However the Bloodhound SSC will be supersonic, so it's going to need a long, sharply tapered design:

What about missiles?

Some missiles cruise subsonically like the Tomahawk cruise missile. Again, a blunt, rounded shape is the most efficient:

What if you wanted to make a supersonic cruise missile like our old Regulus? Then you'd have the sharply pointed shape:

This isn't me just trying to justify what I want, these are fundamental laws of aerodynamics. They are well understood and no longer being debated.

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