China HSR Construction Speeds Up

Three more routes centering around Shanghai plannedShanghai Station

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

5 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Two things. First, HSR isn’t really competitive at five hours. At that distance, flying takes 2.5 hours, and a 2.5-hour time penalty is too much for HSR to handle. This is especially true for a route like NY-Chicago, on which the route has to take major detours to pass through important intermediate destinations like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. China can build this line because it doesn’t have a good low-cost airline network yet, and because the line can pass through more intermediate cities.

    Second, you really can’t compare infrastructure spending between a country with 10% growth and one with 3% growth. The US needs more current spending than China just to maintain its present standard of living, so it will naturally have less to spend on new infrastructure. It also has more overbuilt infrastructure to maintain. Countries with more mature rail technology, like Germany and Japan, are building new HSR at a slower pace.

  • NikolasM

    5 hours is plenty competitive – downtown to downtown. The airports are not close to the city center. Not only that but you need to give yourself at least 1.5 hours (though maybe you are considering that to some extent) to the front end of an airport trip for check in and security. You have freedom to move about on a train and are not cramped like on a plane save for the 8 people in business/first class. The next time jet fuel prices jump to $4 a gallon there won’t be any airlines left to fly you anyways.

  • I recall reading the breaking point, at least for a country with low-cost airlines, is around 3.5-4.5 hours or less than 500 miles.

    And if HSR from LA to SF takes 5 hours it will be a dud. You can make the trip in about that time (5.5-6 hours at normal speeds) right now in an automobile.

  • Current California HSR Authority plans would connect LA to SF in 2h40.

  • s1

    Someone on a Chinese infrastructure forum posted this schedule.

    350 km/h PDL line
    Beijing – Tianjin 118 km, opend in 2008
    Wuhan – Guangzhou 968 km, will open in 2009
    Zhengzhou – Xi’an 456 km, will open in 2009
    Guangzhou – Shenzhen 105 km, will open in 2010
    Shanghai – Hangzhou 160 km, will open in 2010
    Beijing – Shanghai 1318 km, will open in 2011
    Nanjing – Hangzhou 249 km, will open in 2011
    Hangzhou – Ningbo 150 km, will open in 2011
    Harbin – Dalian 904 km, will open in 2011
    Beijing – Shijiazhuang 278 km, will open in 2012
    Shijiazhuang – Zhengzhou – Wuhan 838 km, will open in 2012
    Tianjin – Qinhuangdao 258 km, will open in 2012

    250 km/h line
    Qinhuangdao – Shenyang 404 km, opened in 2003
    Hefei – Nanjing 156 km, opened in 2008
    Hefei – Wuhan 357 km, opened in 2009
    Shijiazhuang – Taiyuan 189 km, opened in 2009
    Ningbo – Wenzhou 282 km, will open in 2009
    Wenzhou – Fuzhou 298 km will open in 2009
    Fuzhou – Xiamen 273 km, will open in 2009
    Jinan – Qingdao 366 km, will open in in 2009
    Nanchang – Jiujiang 131 km, will open in 2010
    Shanghai – Nanjing 300 km, will open in 2010
    Haikou – Sanya 297 km, will open in 2010
    Changchun – Jilin 109 km, will open in 2011
    Xiamen -Shenzhen 501 km, will open in 2011
    Wuhan – Yichang 292 km, will open in 2011
    Nanjing – Anqing 250 km, will open in 2012
    Nanning – Guangzhou 577 km, will open in 2012
    Nanning – Hengyang 724 km, will open in 2012
    Chongqing – Lichuan 244 km, will open in 2012
    Fuzhou – Putian 604, will open in 2012
    Guiyang – Guangzhou 857 km, will open in 2012

    200 km/h line
    Lichuan – Yichang 288 km, will open in 2010

Leave a Reply to Alon Levy




Comment preview below as you type. You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Prove you're not spam (required)

For help if you have trouble posting or your comment is marked as spam, please email:
info (at) | Comment Rules

The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
  • Le progrès ne vaut que s'il est partagé par tous.

Email newsletter

Recent Comments


rss feed
comments feed
twitter feed