China Expands Its Investment in Rapid Transit, Paving Way for Future Urban Growth

» 1,900 miles of rapid transit planned for world’s most populated country by 2015.

Most of China’s growth is concentrated in its large urban centers, which will house fifty percent of the country’s population by 2020 and 75% by 2050. For these increasingly huge megacities, the central government has no choice but to develop adequate measures to transport the population. Following the American model of car dependence is simply not possible because of high densities and inadequate space. With its high-speed rail network, now the longest in the world, the Chinese are providing efficient intercity links into downtowns.

But it’s in urban rail networks that the country has made the biggest strides towards increasing mobility within cities. Shanghai’s huge Metro, the longest on earth, is just one among eleven currently operating in China. Dozens of other cities have rapid transit systems either under construction or in

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Shanghai's Metro, Now World's Longest, Continues to Grow Quickly as China Invests in Rapid Transit

Click here for large (2000 px wide) version of Shanghai Metro Map

» System will carry about five million passengers a day. Dozens of other Chinese cities are spending billions of dollars on similar grade-separated transit systems.

If China’s massive investment in high-speed rail is impressive, its huge spending binge in local rapid transit is remarkable. And nowhere is that record more dramatic than in Shanghai, the world’s most populous city proper.

Just fifteen years after the first segment of its first metro line opened, the city’s metro network has gained the title as the world’s longest with the opening of a section of Line 10 last week. This followed years of continuous construction and the opening of pieces of Lines 2, 9, and 11 over the past month. In anticipation of the inauguration of the city’s

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China Promotes Its Transcontinental Ambitions with Massive Rail Plan

» China intends to extend its high-speed rail system towards south Asia and Europe with the goal of two-day journey times between London and Beijing.

If China weren’t already halfway through the construction of the world’s largest high-speed rail network, it would be difficult to take this proposal seriously. But the most populated country on earth has shown no deficit of skill recently in undertaking massive public works projects, and its ambitions — and willingness to finance them — show no sign of slowing.

So the news that China is planning a series of transcontinental high-speed rail lines designed to connect London to Beijing in just two days that broke yesterday in the South China Morning Post should be taken at face value. The proposal, which is mapped out above according to preliminary information about proposed alignments, would likely be the

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New Wuhan-Guangzhou Rail Route Shatters Average Speed Records

» A comparison of long-distance high-speed rail routes puts China’s accomplishment in perspective.

What makes high-speed rail so remarkable is its ability to move people so quickly from one place to another, and that, of course, requires high average running speeds. In the U.S., even the fastest train — the Acela Express that travels between Boston and Washington, capable of 150 mph — averages only about 80 mph on its 450-mile journey. As has been discussed previously on these pages, while the ability to reach higher and higher speeds is an important element of rail system success, the ability to maintain those speeds is what matters most.

Even on the fastest rail lines, average speeds have come nowhere close to meeting top speeds on trips between major cities; this is typically a result of required slow-downs in urban areas and at stops and tight curves through difficult terrain. Many “high-speed” lines also contain

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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

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  • by Yonah Freemark
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