Beijing-Shanghai HSR Link to Average Speeds of Over 200 mph

Railway Ministry announces trip will take less than four hours, versus previously announced five.

China’s Beijing-Shanghai high-speed connection, which is the most important link in the country’s ambitious rail plans, will be faster than previously announced when it fully opens in 2013. The project was designed from the start for trains capable of 217 mph top speeds, but the government estimated total trip time of five hours on the 819 mile corridor, which would have meant average speeds of 164 mph on the whole line, a bit above typical for a corridor of this type. The country has now announced that its ambitions are even larger, and that trains will average over 200 mph to make the trip in less than four hours.

What’s significant about this announcement is that it means that trains will be moving at speeds higher than the 217 mph initially proposed for the major parts of the trip, making this by far the fastest conventional high-speed line in the world when it opens. The decrease in travel time from five hours to four also will allow trains to take a far higher percentage of the market share on China’s most important intercity link. Though three hours is typically seen as the time barrier under which trains can take travel share from airlines, a four hour trip on this corridor will make it a very popular choice for a link that already carries 10 percent of the country’s rail traffic. A trip between the cities today takes around 12 hours by rail.

The distance between Beijing and Shanghai is roughly equivalent to that between New York and Chicago.

China’s Railway Ministry sees its investment in new corridors as an essential way to avoid congestion as the country develops. China only has 1/50th of the number of airports as the U.S., but its high-speed railway network, measuring up to 7,000 miles by 2020, will be the longest in the world.

Beijing’s increased confidence in its capacity to deliver what amounts to the world’s most advanced high-speed corridor will be buoyed by a favorable stock market reaction, because the country is likely to list a holding company controlling the corridor on the stock market. Doing so would allow China to raise further funds for fast rail expansion, making this corridor only the first among many.

5 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • I’ll believe it when I see it. China is known for lying about how great its infrastructure is. For example, it billed the Beijing-Tianjin HSR as a 350 km/h line, the fastest in the world, but due to safety concerns it only ran trains at that speed during the Olympics in order to impress the tourists, and subsequently reduced top speed to 300.

  • DAN

    I feel like such an old fart for saying this but I took the overnight train from Shanghai to Beijing a few years ago and it was awesome. I still have the very very teeny tiny toothbrush, toothpaste, and towel kit that you get with every trip. I can’t wait to make the high speed rail trip.

  • greg

    Alon Levy,

    I took the Beijing-Tianjin HSR yesterday, round trip. The highest speed during the trip was 331 km/h and it ran at that speed for less than 10 minutes. The entire trip takes 30 minutes exact.

    The Beijing-Tianjin HSR’s highest operating speed is 350 km/h. It was run at that highest speed during the first few months since the line started to operate in August, 2008. They would run at that speed whenever there are VIP vistors, such as House of Speaker Nancy Pelosy this month when she visited China.

    The main constraint is the train, which is model CRH3-300, i.e., it supports sustaining operating speed at 300 km/h. The track can support 350 km/h or even higher.

    China is developing the new generation of HSR train, CRH3-350 and CRH2-350. These are the train that can run at operating speed of 350 km/h on much longer lines such as Beijing-Shanghai. The new trains are slated to be in operational at the end of 2011.

    To summarize, the current HSR trains CRH3-300 is designed to run at normal operating speed of 300 km/h, highest operating speed of 350 km/h. It has reached 394 km/h during test. The new generation of CRH3-350 and CRH2-350 will run at normal operating speed of 350 km/h, highest operating speed of 380 km/h. It will run above 400 km/h in test.

  • Bo

    @Alon Levy,

    I’m a frequent visitor to China for business, and while I have not travelled to every corner of China, I can vouch for the veracity of the Chinese claims regarding their infrastructure, both in its present form and in the future. It’s high time for us to get our heads out of the sand.

    One more thing, don’t you suppose the Chinese lying about their infrastructure is preferable over our lying about our corporate earnings and banking strength?

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