China, as described before, has embarked on the world’s largest high-speed rail program, with more than 10,000 km of passenger rail lines under construction to connect the nation’s largest and most important cities. The result will be truly expanded mobility for the country’s citizens and vastly reduced travel times.
Most important, perhaps, is the Beijing-Shanghai link, which will connect the country’s two largest metro regions, and whose construction began in April of 2008. According to People’s Daily, all of the tunnels along the 1,200 km long line will be completed this year – after little more than a year in construction. Trains along the corridor are now projected to travel at 220 mph, the same as along California’s planned high-speed line, and they will cover the distance in five hours.
Consider this: the distance between New York and Chicago is roughly the same as that between Beijing and Shanghai. Amtrak’s current best offer – along the Lake Shore Limited – makes the trip in nineteen hours. Imagine how many people would take the train if the same journey time were reduced by 75%…
Meanwhile, Shanghai Daily reports that the 2,066 km line between Shanghai and Kunming – a route not fully planned just a month ago, according to my research (at the time the project was expected to extend to Changsha only) – will be upgraded to high-speed service, with construction beginning later this year. The trains will run the route in 10 hours, versus 37 hours today. Another Amtrak comparison: that’s roughly equivalent to the distance between New York and New Orleans, a route that takes the Crescent 30 hours to complete.
Finally, construction on the proposed Shanghai-Hangzhou line, which is the first phase of the Shanghai-Hong Kong route, will begin in March, according to Xinhua. The 159 km journey will be covered in 38 minutes, versus more than an hour today. This short line will cost about 4.4 billion U.S. dollars to construct.
The U.S. stimulus bill, supposedly a “massive” investment in America’s infrastructure, will devote a maximum of $2 billion to high-speed rail, if the Senate version assumes priority. The House version of the bill included nothing for fast trains.
We’re falling further behind…
Image above: Shanghai South Rail Station, from Flickr user XXOM under CC License