China's Turns on World's Longest High Speed Rail Conduit
December 27, 2012 12:02 PM
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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
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.
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.
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.
The Washington Post
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
12/28/2012 4:19:39 PM
Self driving cars? For high speed journeys of hundreds of miles? That seems like a crazy answer.
Rail is unbeatable for transporting large loads of freight over land as happens in the US.
Rail is also extremely good at transporting large numbers of passengers very quickly over distances of hundreds of miles as happens across much of western Europe, as well as China now. Japan realised that decades ago.
For long distances air travel will always be quicker than rail (though by an ever reducing amount unless a replacement for Concorde is developed), but rail is always going to be a lot cheaper to run than the equivalent plane journey, which makes a long distance rail journey (perhaps overnight asleep) a better option than several hours on a cramped plane.
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