New high-speed train on
on the Wuhan-Guangzhou route

In the late 2000s China had no high-speed railways. As of early 2022 it had 37,900 kilometers (23,500 miles), linking all the major cities in China. Half of that total was completed between 2016 and 2020, with an addition 3,700 kilometers opening in 2021. In 2020, 75 percent of Chinese cities with a population of 500,000 or more had a high-speed rail link. The network is expected to double in length again, to 70,000 kilometers, by 2035. [Source: Ben Jones, CNN, February 9, 2022 ^^]

China’s high-speed rail system only opened in 2008. By 2013, it was bigger than all the high-speed train systems of rest of the world combined by 2013. China became the home of the the world's longest high-speed railway network in December 2010 when it had a combined track length of 7,531 kilometers . As of early 2012 China had 13 high-speed railways in operation, with 26 under construction and 23 more planned, with much of the system, similar to that in Japan, built on elevated tracks. A February 2012 report by World Bank experts lauded China's success in rapidly expanding the system. [Source: Elaine Kurtenbach, AP, March 12, 2012]

According to CNN: With maximum speeds of 350 kph (217 mph) on many lines, intercity travel has been transformed and the dominance of airlines has been broken on the busiest routes. Spain, which has Europe's most extensive high-speed network and occupies second place in the global league table, is a minnow in comparison with just over 2,000 miles of dedicated lines built for operation at over 250 kph. In contrast, the UK currently has just 107 kilometers while the United States has only one rail route that (just about) qualifies for high-speed status — Amtrak's North East Corridor, where Acela trains currently top out at 240 kph on expensively rebuilt sections of existing line shared with commuter and freight trains. ^^

“China's ambition is to make high-speed rail the mode of choice for domestic long-distance travel, but these new railways have a much greater significance. Much like Japan's Shinkansen in the 1960s, they are a symbol of the country's economic power, rapid modernization, growing technological prowess and increasing prosperity. For China's ruling Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping, high-speed rail is also a powerful tool for social cohesion, political influence and the integration of disparate regions with distinct cultures into the mainstream."The building of these new railways forms part of Xi Jinping's grand plan of 'integrating the vast national market,'" says Dr. Olivia Cheung, research fellow at the China Institute of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). "It is also meant to be reflective of his 'new development philosophy,' of which 'coordinated development' is a key concept. "His scheme is grand in that it extends beyond just simply connecting existing towns, but existing towns with new mega-towns that are being constructed from scratch. A famous example in which Xi takes a lot of pride is the Xiong'an New Area in Hebei province, around 60 miles southwest of Beijing." [Source: Ben Jones, CNN, February 9, 2022]

China’s High-Speed Rail System: an Incredible Achievement

China’s high-speed rail network and state-of-the-art bullet trains are at the heart of China's "leapfrog development” plan. It is one of the world’s largest and most costly public works projects. The general budget estimate for the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railroad alone surpassed the entire budget for the Three Gorges Dam Project. Complaints about China's high-speed train program include the system’s high costs and pricey fares, the quality of construction and the allegation of self-dealing by a rail minister who was fired earlier this year on corruption grounds.

Describing what it was like to ride a Chinese high-speed train in 2011, Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “Passengers hurried across Beijing South Station at the final call to board bullet train D301, heading south on the world’s largest, fastest, and newest high-speed railway, the Harmony Express. It was bound for Fuzhou, fourteen hundred miles away. When the passengers for D301 reached the platform, they encountered a vehicle that looked less like a train than a wingless jet: a tube of aluminum alloy, a quarter of a mile from end to end, containing sixteen carriages, painted in high-gloss white with blue racing stripes. The guests were ushered aboard by female attendants in Pan Am-style pillbox hats and pencil skirts; each attendant, according to regulations, had to be at least five feet five inches tall, and was trained to smile with exactly eight teeth visible. A twenty-year-old college student named Zhu Ping took her seat, then texted her roommate that she was about to “fly” home on the rails. “Even my laptop is running faster than usual,” she wrote. [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 22, 2013]

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Interior of new high speed train
on the Wuhan-Guangzhou route
According to CNN: The sheer size of China and its tremendous variations in terrain, geology and climate have presented the country's railway engineers with incredible challenges. From sometimes frozen Harbin in the far north to the near-tropical humidity of the Pearl River Delta megalopolis, to the 1,776-km Lanzhou-Urumqi line traversing the Gobi Desert, China's engineers have quickly developed extensive expertise in driving railways over, under and through whatever terrain lies in their path.[Source: Ben Jones, CNN, February 9, 2022]

"The Chinese have created an entire high-speed rail network on an unprecedented scale — often faster and certainly more reliable than Chinese domestic flights," says rail travel expert Mark Smith, better known as "The Man in Seat 61." "It's hard not to be impressed by the sheer size of some of the new stations, and by the efficiency with which the system moves vast numbers of people, all with a reserved seat and increasingly without the need for paper tickets, just a scan of an ID card or passport at the ticket gates." Fares, he says, start from as little as $13.

For anyone used to the scope of traditional railway projects, the statistics are often mind boggling. 1) Construction of the 815-kilometer, $13.5 billion Zhengzhou East-Wangzhou line was completed in less than five years. 2) By late-2020, China National Railways was operating more than 9,600 high-speed trains per day, including the world's only high-speed overnight sleeper services on selected longer-distance routes. 3) When the new 180-kilometer Xuzhou-Lianyungang line opened in February, it completed a continuous 3,490-kilometer high-speed rail connection between Jiangsu province and Urumqi, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Heading north from the capital, trains now complete the 1,700-kilometer Beijing-Harbin journey in just five hours — requiring an average speed of 340 kph.

History of China's High Speed Railway

According to CNN: China initially relied on high-speed technology imported from Europe and Japan to establish its network. Global rail engineering giants such as Bombardier, Alstom and Mitsubishi were understandably keen to co-operate, given the potential size of the new market and China's ambitious plans. However, over the last decade, it is domestic companies that have developed into world leaders in high-speed train technology and engineering, thanks to the astonishing expansion of their home network. [Source: Ben Jones, CNN, February 9, 2022]

China spent more than $100 billion to build 12,000 kilometers of high speed railroad between 2005 and 2010. In 2005, work began on a 3,000 kilometer (1,900 mile) network of high speed trains capable of traveling between 200 and 300 kilometers per hour. The network included lines between 1) Wuhan and Guangzhou; 2) Zhengzhou and Xian; 3) Beijing and Tianjin; 4) Hefei and Nanjing. The Wuhan-Guangzhou and Zhengzhou-Xian trains are capable of traveling 300 kilometers per hour. In January 2010, Hong Kong approved an $8.6 billion high-speed rail link to China’s train network.

Keith Bradsher wrote in the New York Times: “China’s lavish new rail system is a response to a failure of central planning...After China joined the World Trade Organization in November 2001, exports and manufacturing soared. Electricity generation failed to keep up because the railway ministry had not built enough rail lines or purchased enough locomotives to haul the coal needed to run new power plants.” By 2004, the government was turning off the power to some factories up to three days a week to prevent blackouts in residential areas.Officials drafted a plan to move much of the nation’s passenger traffic onto high-speed routes by 2020, freeing existing tracks for more freight. Then the global financial crisis hit in late 2008. Faced with mass layoffs at export factories, China ordered that the new rail system be completed by 2012 instead of 2020, throwing more than $100 billion in stimulus at the projects...Administrators mobilized armies of laborers — 110,000 just for the 820-mile route from Beijing to Shanghai.” [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, February 12, 2010]

The World Bank estimated in a report in 2010 that China spent $163 billion on the high-speed rail network from 2007 to 2009 and spent another $100 billion in 2010. The high-speed railway network was a major part of $575 billion economic stimulus package launched in late 2008 to combat the Lehman Brothers international financial crisis. At that time, officials of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) confidently proclaimed that it had the "resolute and methods" needed to prevent any of the money being misused. The NDRC now owes the Chinese public an explanation on how such huge amounts could apparently be pocketed by officials linked with project. [Source: Wu Zhong, Asia Times, March 8, 2011]

Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “In 2003, China’s Minister of Railways, Liu Zhijun, took charge of plans to build seventy-five hundred miles of high-speed railway For anyone with experience on Chinese trains, it was hard to picture. “Back in 1995, if you had told me where China would be today, I would have thought you were stark raving mad,” Richard Di Bona, a British transportation consultant in Hong Kong, told me. With a total investment of more than two hundred and fifty billion dollars, the undertaking was to be the world’s most expensive public-works project since President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, in the nineteen-fifties. To complete the first route by 2008, Minister Liu, whose ambition and flamboyance earned him the nickname Great Leap Liu, drove his crews and engineers to work in shifts around the clock, laying track, revising blueprints, and boring tunnels. “To achieve a great leap,” he liked to say, “a generation must be sacrificed.” (Some colleagues called him Lunatic Liu.) The state news service lionized an engineer named Xin Li, because he remained at his computer so long that he went partly blind in his left eye. (“I will keep working even without one eye,” he told a reporter.) When the first high-speed line débuted with a test run in June, 2008, it was seventy-five per cent over budget and relied heavily on German designs, but nobody dwelled on that during the ceremony. Cadres wept. When another line made its maiden run, Liu took a seat beside the conductor and said, “If anyone is going to die, I will be the first. That autumn, to help ward off the global recession, Chinese leaders more than doubled spending on high-speed rail and upped the target to ten thousand miles of track by 2020, the equivalent of building America’s first transcontinental route five times over. [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 22, 2013]

Advances Made on China’s High-Speed Rail System

According to CNN: On some routes, more than 80 percent of the track is elevated, soaring above densely packed cities and valuable agricultural land on endless concrete viaducts. More than 100 tunnels — each over 10 kilometers — have also been bored, along with spectacular long-span bridges thrown over natural obstacles such as the Yangtze River.[Source: Ben Jones, CNN, February 9, 2022]

Not satisfied with pushing the boundaries of speed, endurance and civil engineering, Chinese companies are among the first in the world to introduce new technology such as autonomous (driverless) train operation and advanced signaling and control technology. The driverless "bullet trains" connecting Beijing and Zhangjiakou in northern Hebei province are capable of hitting speeds up to 350 kph, making them the world's fastest autonomous trains.

Enormous new stations serving the major cities on the high-speed network are more reminiscent of airport terminals, with acres of spotless polished marble and glass, enormous information screens and lounges where passengers are held until their train is called. No loitering on cold and windy platforms here! To avoid bulldozing urban neighborhoods, huge rail stations have been erected in industrial districts on the edge of cities. Subways to the stations have been built in Guangzhou and Wuhan and other cities. Other station are accessed by 40-minute bus rides from city centers.

High speed trains compete with airlines, and airlines are losing customers When a new high-speed line opened up between Xian and Zhengzhou, airlines stopped all flights between the two cities as customers preferred the two-hour train ride costing to $57 to the 40-minute flight for $73. The three-hour train to Wuhan makes a quicker trip than the nearly two-hour flight, once faster train check-in times are accounted for.

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High-Speed Train Routes

China Tests 500 Kph Super High-Speed Train

In December 2011, Reuters reported: China launched a super-rapid test train over the weekend which is capable of travelling 500 kilometers per hour, state media said on Monday, as the country moves ahead with its railway ambitions despite serious problems on its high-speed network.The train, made by a subsidiary of CSR Corp Ltd, China's largest train maker, is designed to resemble an ancient Chinese sword, the official Xinhua news agency reported. It "will provide useful reference for current high-speed railway operations," it quoted train expert Shen Zhiyun as saying. A launching ceremony was held in Qingdao, Shandong province. But future Chinese trains will not necessarily run at such high speeds, CSR chairman Zhao Xiaogang told the Beijing Morning News. "We aims to ensure the safety of trains operation," he said. [Source: Reuters, December 26, 2011]

In December 2010, a Chinese passenger train — the CRH-380A — achieved a record speed of 486 kph on a test run of the track between Beijing and Shanghai. The Chinese said that it the fastest speed recorded by an unmodified conventional commercial train, A specially modified French TGV reached 574.8 kph in a 2007 test. A Japanese maglev train reached 581 kph in 2003.

Railway official say they are working on technology to boost train speeds to 500 kph. The country's manufacturers seem positive that their trains will soon snap at the heels of the 574.8 km per hour world speed record set by France in 2007, an anonymous source with CSR Corporation, formerly known as the China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corporation, told the Xinhua News Agency Tuesday, during the seventh World Congress on High Speed Rail held in Beijing.

In December 2009, China unveiled what it said at the time was the fastest train in the world. It traveled between the southern economic hub of Guangzhou and the central city of Wuhan at an average speed of 350 kilometers per hour. A few days after it was introduced this train was brought to a screeching halt when a chain smoker lit up on a no-smoking train setting off a fire alarm, The train was still in a station and was stopped for 2½ hours while various safety checks were made.

Driverless 350-Kph Bullet Train Unveiled for the 2022 Beijing Olympics

In December 2019 as part of preparations for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic, a new driverless high-speed train was unveiled that reduced travel time for the 174-kilometer journey from Beijing to Olympics site Zhangjiakou, from three hours to less than 60 minutes. Built in just four years, the line has 10 stations serving two of the major Winter Games venues, plus another at Badaling Changcheng providing faster access for tourists to the Great Wall of China. The latter is the world's deepest high-speed railway station, situated 102 meters (335 feet) underground. Passenger seats are equipped with 5G touchscreen control panels, intelligent lighting, thousands of safety sensors. There are removable seats for passengers in wheelchairs. Facial-recognition technology and robots are used in stations to assist travelers with navigation, luggage and check-in. [Source: Ben Jones, CNN, February 9, 2022]

According to Business Insider: “The driverless Fuxing bullet train travels at speeds of 350 kph (217 mph) and can carry 564 passengers per trip in its eight carriages. It is being put on the tracks just in time for the Beijing Games, to ferry passengers along the 108-mile journey between the Chinese capital and satellite venues in the city of Zhangjiakou, According to the state-linked Xinhua News, the train was custom-made for the Beijing Games. It comes outfitted with a 5G-linked broadcast studio from which journalists can broadcast. [Source: Cheryl The, Business Insider, January 7, 2022]

“Xinhua reported that the train would take just 50 minutes to move its passengers from Beijing's downtown district to the Olympic venues in Zhangjiakou, down from three hours via a regular express train. Construction on the railway began in 2018, per state-linked media outlet CGTN. The Beijing-Zhangjiakou connection was completed in 2019. A separate Xinhua video tour of the train's interior also showed special lockers where athletes taking the train can stow their ski equipment.

"To have so much advanced technology brought together on this train, and to present it in front of the world, this shows China's comprehensive strengths in terms of the train system," Zhu Yan, deputy director with at the train's maker, CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., told the state-linked Global Times.

High-Speed Train Lines

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CRH1 high speed train

Bullet-train-style train between Beijing and Tianjin in around half an hour and can reaches speeds of 193 kph (120mph). Reserved seats cost about $5.50 in 2010, double the price of slower trains that take about two hours. Improvements on the Guangzhou and Chongqing line have reduced the travel time from 28 hours to 21 hours.

In December 2012, China began service on the world’s longest high-speed rail line: between Beijing and Guangzhou, a distance of roughly .1930 kilometers (1,200 miles). Trains traveling 300 kilometers, or 186 miles, an hour, cover the route in eight hours. Older trains still in service on a parallel rail line take 21 hours; Amtrak trains from New York to Miami, a shorter distance, still take nearly 30 hours. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, December 26, 2012]

In November 2016, China opened the first section of a high-speed railway in the western region of Xinjiang. The 530 kilometers (330 miles) stretch between Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, and Hami is the first stage of the 1,775 kilometers (1,100 miles) Lanxin railway connecting Urumqi to Lanzhou, the capital of central western Gansu Province. . Trains on the Urumqi-Hami leg could reach more than 200 kph (120 mph), halving the travel time between the two cities to three hours. [Source: Reuters November 16, 2014]

In July 2021, China opened up a new high-speed railroad that connects cities in Tibet with an electric bullet train allowing passengers to travel from Lhasa, to the city of Nyingchi in three and a half hours. The train — China's first fully electrified bullet train— travels at 160 kph (100 mph) down the 400-kilometers (250-mile) stretch of track on Tibet countryside . See TIBET TRAINS factsanddetails.com

Chinese High-Speed Train From Shanghai

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CRH2 high speed train

High-speed trains modeled after the Japanese Shinkansen began operation are part of the route between Shanghai and Hangzhou and Nanjing in January 2007. New trains service between Shanghai and Suzhou cover the 85 kilometers in 39 minutes. The distance between Shanghai and Hangzhou is 171 kilometers and between Shanghai and Nanjing is 303 kilometers. The trains are capable of going 250 kilometers per hour but only go 160 kph because that is the maximum speed the tracks can handle.

In October 2010, high-speed train service was launched between Shanghai and Hangzhou. The 200 kilometers distance between the cities is covered in 45 minutes. The CRH380 train, which operates on the line, has been clocked at almost 420 kph, a world record.. Although it will usually operate at a maximum speed of 350 kph.

In December 2010, Liu Zhijun, the Chinese Railways Minister, declared that the eastern and central areas of the country have known an "era of high-speed railway," which will spread to western regions in the next five years, according to a national development blueprint, the People's Daily website reported.

Beijing- Shanghai High-Speed Train

The $80 billion Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line is the world's longest single high-speed connection. It creates a north-to-south artery with links to east-to-west rail lines at two dozen stations along the way. Designed to carry 80 million passengers a year, the Beijing-Shanghai line crosses seven provinces that include some of China's most densely populated and economically developed areas. In a statement, the Ministry of Railways said it made extensive preparations for safety and security. They include plans for daily inspections of tracks and other facilities and an earthquake monitoring system. [Source: AP, Will Clem, South China Morning Post, June 30, 2011]

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Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train
The railway ministry says the Beijing-Shanghai line cost 215 billion yuan ($32.5 billion) — $25,500 a meter. The railway ministry says the line will run 63 pairs of trains a day at 300 kph (190 mph) and 27 at 250 kph (155 mph). Ticket prices range from 1,750 yuan ($269) for a business class seat on the fastest train to 410 yuan ($63) for second-class on slower trains, compared to about 1,300 yuan for a flight. The initial plan was for 90 bullet trains a day in each direction. Originally there were plans to accelerate speed to 220 miles per hour by the summer of 2012, if the first year of operation goes smoothly. Even at the initial speeds, the new trains take less than five hours to cover a distance comparable to New York to Atlanta — which requires nearly 18 hours on Amtrak. The trains began operation in June 2011 and have provided stiff competition for airlines, whose the two-hour Beijing-Shanghai flights are subject to notorious delays, often caused by thunderstorms.

Work on the line began in April 2008 and was not originally scheduled to be completed until next year. Then the global financial crisis kicked in and construction work was accelerated as the government's stimulus package channeled 4 trillion yuan into capital projects. The final stretch of track was laid in November 2010, just 31 months after the first foundations were dug. Construction was supposed to start much earlier and it was originally hoped the rail line would be completed for the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 but that didn’t happen partly because of delays caused by controversies over which technology to use and high costs. The project was expected to take five to 10 years to complete and cost $22.5 billion when the cost for real estate and resettlement are factored in.

Initial tests in December 2010 set a record speed of 486.1 kilometres per hour, smashing the previous best for a conventional train of 416.6km/h, set during tests on the Shanghai-Hangzhou line. In January, the train recorded a new world's fastest speed at 486.3 km/h in a trial run. Mainland media made no attempt to hide their pride in the "domestic" high-speed rail technology that, although reliant on imported hardware, was then running faster than Japanese, Korean and European counterparts.

It was originally intended that trains on the Beijing-Shanghai route would complete the 1,318-kilometre journey in less than four hours, with trains running at speeds of 350 kilometres per hour or more. Instead, trains will run at maximum speeds of either 300km/h or 250km/h, adding at least an hour to the trip. Although ministry officials have insisted the measure was taken to increase energy efficiency and allow for tickets to be more affordable, there have been widespread suggestions teh decision was prompted by safety fears.

China’s high-speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai served 130 million people in 2015. That year it made a net profit of $1 billion — its first since opening in 2011. [Source: Wall Street Journal]

Riding on the New High-Speed Train between Beijing and Shanghai

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Inside Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train
Describing the ride, Leo Lewis wrote in the Times of London, “Just outside Beijing, with the speedometer already at 278km/h, the driver's white-gloved hand shifts imperceptibly forward on the throttle. The pitch of the engines lifts a tiny fraction. Tea ripples minutely in its cup. From the carriage windows...the provinces pass in a magnificent blur. But one constant is the farmland, cleaved without compromise as the track makes its direct charge at Shanghai. This is a country that can do straight lines. Land can be requisitioned, peasants bought off. [Source: Leo Lewis, Times of London, June 28, 2011]

On board, the train is equally crafted as a global benchmark of progress. First Class seats, at about $130, are priced to compete exactly with an air fare, but with the promise (unfulfilled on this trip) of mobile phone and wi-fi access throughout the journey. Beyond First Class is Business Class, a nod, perhaps, to the wealth-makers of 21st-century China who need flatbed seats and armrest TV screens.

"The high-speed train is fast and more comfortable than a plane, as I can move around and it provides sockets for charging my laptop," 30-year-old Cheng Yu, a businesswoman from Beijing, told the China Daily. She usually flies to Shanghai, said. She bought a train ticket online this time to experience the speed. "The service on the train is as good as on the plane. If they improve the food and prepare pills for people like me who feel a little dizzy at first, I would consider zipping between Beijing and Shanghai by train from now on," she said. [Source: China Daily, July 1, 2011]

The China Daily reported: “The train attracted many fans who avidly snapped photos of every detail to share with friends online - from signs to handlebars and especially the display panel recording the speed. Train enthusiast Piao Qichao, 26, said any memorabilia from the train or journey was worth collecting. He even bought another train ticket, from Beijing to Langfang, just to keep as a souvenir.”

There have been some problems with passengers on some trains. The Daily Beast reported: In December 2012, bullet trains on high-speed rail lines in northwest China were forced to slow down seven times in three days because of passengers who lit up cigarettes, despite a smoking ban. Apparently many of them assumed smoking is allowed in the sleek bullet trains, as it’s permitted in the connecting platforms between the cars of ordinary trains. In August 2011, several railway police officers and conductors had to apologize to passengers after they were caught smoking in the sightseeing car on a bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing.[Source: Melinda Liu, Daily Beast, January 5, 2013]

Guangzhou-Wuhan High-Speed Train

The high-speed Chinese train that connects Guangzhou, the southern coastal manufacturing center, to Wuhan, deep in the interior, has the world’s fastest average speed. In a little more than three hours, it travels about 1,000 kilometers, comparable to the distance from Boston to southern Virginia. That is less time than Amtrak’s fastest train, the Acela, takes to go from Boston just to New York. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, February 12, 2010]

The Guangzhou-to-Wuhan high-speed trains has an average speed of up to 346 kph (215 mph). Heavily subsidized regular trains, which require 11 hours for the trip from Guangzhou to Wuhan, cost $20.50 one-way. The cheapest seat on the bullet train costs $72 in 2010, or one to three weeks’ pay for an assembly line worker, and are only 18 inches wide. First class tickets in wider seats were $114. Most Chinese can’t afford these prices. The new trains leave 29 times a day for Wuhan from a mammoth new train station on the outskirts of Guangzhou that opened in January 2010. With soaring steel girders, white walls and enormous skylights far overhead, the station,Asia’s largest, resembles a major airport.

Bullet trains travel faster than a commercial jet at takeoff. They require extremely flat, straight routes. After a bullet train glides smoothly out of Guangzhou’s station and it takes less than four minutes be reach a a speed of more than 320 kph (200 mph). . Amtrak’s Acela only briefly reaches its top speed of 240 kph (150 mph) because it runs on old, curvy tracks that it shares with 12,000-ton freight trains.

A saying frequently heard in Guangzhou is: a resident can board a train in the morning, have lunch at historic Mount Yuelu in Changsha, dinner at the famous Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan and still come home and sleep in her own bed. A 9-year-old girl on the train told the New York Times, “I was scared to go on this train because it goes so fast, but now I’m not scared at all because it’s very stable and doesn’t wobble back and forth — before falling asleep on her tray table.

Economic Impact of China’s High-Speed Trains

Chinese officials believe improved passenger and freight services are also crucial to development. “China's railway service has long fallen short of In 2010, according to the Washington Post, China invested $120 billion in high-sped railways. By one estimate construction of China’s rail system uses 20 million tons of steel and 120 million tons of concrete a year and provides 6 million jobs. demand,” Li Heping, a researcher at the China Academy of Railway Sciences, told the state news agency Xinhua. “There are two solutions: building more railways and raising the train speed.”

Keith Bradsher wrote in New York Times: Lavish spending on high-speed railways has helped jump-start the Chinese economy twice: in 2009, during the global financial crisis, and again in autumn 2012, after a brief but sharp economic slowdown over the summer. The hiring of as many as 100,000 workers for each line has kept a lid on unemployment as private-sector construction has slowed because of limits on real estate speculation. he national network has helped to reduce air pollution in Chinese cities and helped to curb demand for imported diesel fuel by freeing capacity on older rail lines for goods to be carried by freight trains instead of heavily polluting, costlier trucks. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, December 26, 2012]

”The web of superfast trains promises to make China even more economically competitive, connecting this vast country — roughly the same size as the United States — as never before, much as the building of the Interstate highway system increased productivity and reduced costs in America a half-century ago. As China upgrades and expands its rail system, it creates the economies of large-scale production for another big export industry. The sheer volume of equipment that they will require, and the technology that will have to be developed, will simply catapult them into a leadership position, said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s vice president for policy and development. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, February 12, 2010]

Construction of China’s High-Speed Trains

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Zefiro 380 train used on the
high-speed Beijing- Shanghai route
According to the New York Times: Soaring tax revenue, a national savings rate of 40 percent and laborers who earn less than $100 a month help make high-speed rail affordable to build in China. Even with cheap labor, the Wuhan-Guangzhou line cost $17 billion; it has so many tunnels through mountains that at times it feels like a subway.”

Describing the construction of a tunnel, Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “We reached a plateau, with excavators and bulldozers, and parked outside a tunnel into the hillside. Li introduced me to the explosives chief, a thin man in his twenties, with a coxcomb of spiky hair. I asked where he’d learned his trade. “Self-taught,” he said. “Li spat into the mud and handed me a hard hat. Inside, the tunnel was cool and dark, about thirty feet high, with a smooth ceiling, faintly lit by work lights along the edges. Li had dug ten tunnels in his life, and this would be the longest—two miles end to end. After a while, we reached a group of eight workers in cotton shoes, hard hats, and military-surplus uniforms. They were wrestling a heavy iron frame into a side door in the tunnel. They groaned and heaved and slipped in the mud, in a scene illuminated by a single light bulb. It could have been 1912, instead of 2012. Li said that ten days earlier he had run into a problem: he hadn’t been paid by the subcontractor overseeing the tunnel, and now he had to lay off workers and stop digging. [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 22, 2013]

Keith Bradsher wrote in New York Times: “Land acquisition is the toughest part of building high-speed rail lines in the West, because the tracks need to be almost perfectly straight, and it has been an issue in China as well. Although local and provincial governments have forced owners to sell land for the tracks themselves, there have been disputes over suddenly valuable land near rail stations, with the result that surprisingly few stores and other commercial venues have sprung up around some high-speed stations used by tens of thousands of travelers every day.

“Zhao Xiangfeng, a farmer in Henan Province, said a plan to build a mini-mall on his and six other farmers’ land near a station had been shelved indefinitely after he and three of the other farmers refused to lease the land for any price close to what the village leadership offered. He said he worried that local leaders might try stronger tactics on the farmers to force them to lease the land and revive the project. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, December 26, 2012]

High-Speed Train Manufacturing in China

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Beijing-Tianjin train
Investments in high-speed railways is expected to yield pay-offs beyond improved transportation in China . Beijing hopes to develop the technology for trains and railways and export it around the world. China has offered to build high-speed railroads in California, Brazil and other places. Giving it an edge over rivals from Japan, France, Germany and South Korea is its ability to offer financing with interest as low as one percent. [Source: Washington Post]

CRRC Corporation Limited (known as CRRC) is a Chinese state-owned and publicly traded rolling stock manufacturer. It is the world's largest manufacturer of locomotives, carriages, wagons, and other vehicles used on a railway.in terms of revenue and is larger than its major competitors of Alstom and Siemens. CSR Corp. and China were China’s two biggest trainmakers. Their stock prices surged in 2014 following a report the government wants them to merge. In 2015, they did merge and formed CRRC. China’s State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) sought the merger to help the export of China’s high-speed railway technologies, [Source: Wikipedia, Clement Tan, Bloomberg, September 4, 2014]

In December 2013, CSR and China CNR won bids for 258 bullet trains worth as much as $7.2 billion to serve the growing network. CSR builds high-speed trains on its own and in a venture with Bombardier Inc. State-owned CSR Sifang was a major producer of high-speed trains in China. It had a sprawling plant in the city of Qindao with 7,000 workers, 2,000 of them engineers and designers, that produced sleek trains capable of going 217 mph and tested models that can go 236 mph. The company negotiated with potential costumers in Thailand, Singapore, Europe, the Middle East and the United States.

Image Sources: Seat 61, Wiki Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2022

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