High Speed Rail? China Has It.

The current and proposed scale of China’s rail network is nothing short of amazing (sorry … crayzy!)  I was reading in the paper this week that China is upping its annual investment in rail from about 300 billion yuan (around $50 billion) to double that amount. 

China currently has about 100,000 km of railways – approximately 3 times the size of the Australian network.  But unlike Australia (where we talk a lot about the need for more rail without actually building it), China is pumping out rail lines faster than you can imagine.

The focus is on speed.  Current lines are being undergraded to take faster trains, alongside a new network of high speed rail (HSR).  Check out the stats…

China currently has the largest  HSR system in the world with 6,500 km.  Of this, 3,500 km is capable of carrying trains that travel at over 350 km/h.  Currently, there is 17,000 km of HSR under construction with a plan to have 50,000 km in total by 2012.  That will be more HSR than the combined total of every other country in the world.  All the works are being managed, planned and funded by the Chinese government.

China is proposing the construction of 2 (perhaps 3) high speed rail connections to Europe.  Beijing to London (yes, this is serious) would take a little under two days.  Other lines would link direct to Moscow and Singapore.

One of my favourite things in Shanghai is the Maglev train that links the international airport to the city.  It completes its 30 km journey in 7 minutes, at a top speed of 430 km/h.  For some reason, I am OK with this, even though at times I am a nervous flyer.  An accident on this line (especially given its urban context) would be somewhat devastating.

In a few weeks, the new Shanghai-Nanjing line will open.  Trains will travel the 300 km distance – about the same as Sydney to Canberra – in less than 1 hour.  They will run every 3 minutes.  The line took about 2 years to build.

Shanghai-Hangzhou is under construction … 170 kilometres (like Sydney to Newcastle) in 27 minutes.

The new Shanghai-Beijing line will reduce travel time from 10 hours to 3.5 hours – very strong competition to air travel which takes a little under 2 hours.  The distance is like Darwin to Alice Springs.  It is opening at the end of the year, 12 months ahead of schedule.  Trains will run every 5 minutes and transport 220,000 people daily.  My head hurts just thinking about the scale of all this…

(This is one of the main stations in Shanghai – the architecture of the system is really quite good too.)

But, to gurgle my brain even further, China is investing huge amounts in urban subway systems as well.  25 cities are getting Metro networks with many more under consideration.   The Shanghai Metro began life a mere 15 years ago, but already is one of the largest in the world – with 12 lines, 423 km or rail and 233 stations (and still growing).  Worthy of its own post…

No doubt, China benefits from centralised government, a huge population, cheap labour and an absence of community consultation.  But on top of this, they have the will to make things happen.  Sydney has a bit to learn when it comes to the delivery of rail … after my last 2 years there, I should know!

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5 Responses to High Speed Rail? China Has It.

  1. luKe says:

    Stunning numbers.

  2. Pingback: Another one for the trainspotters… | That Look Crayzy!

  3. Pingback: My first year in Shangers | That Look Crayzy!

  4. bitbot says:

    Three times as much rail and 50 times as many people…

  5. Pingback: Figuring out the last year … « That Look Crayzy!

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