Commentary on transportation in Connecticut and the Northeast by JIM CAMERON, for 19 years a member of the CT Rail Commuter Council.
Jim is also the founder of a new advocacy effort: www.CommuterActionGroup.org
Disclaimer: his comments are only his own. All contents of this blog are (c) Cameron Communications Inc
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November 19, 2012
The Best High Speed Rail in the World: China!
column I spoke of riding Japan’s Shinkansen, the oldest true high-speed rail
(HSR) system in the world.This week,
the story of the newest and biggest HSR… China.
has been written of the tragic accident in July 2011 when two Chinese
trains collided killing 40 and injuring almost 200.A
recent New Yorker article detailed the incident as an example of shoddy Chinese
engineering and political corruption, which it was.
that incident notwithstanding, in less than a decade China has built the
biggest and best HSR network in the world, and it only cost a quarter trillion
dollars.I just had to ride it, and did
China's newest HSR at Beijing station.
train from Beijing (population 19 million) to Shanghai (23 million) covered the
distance of 819 miles in five hours.That’s an average speed of 164 mph.Even Amtrak’s Acela takes 6 hours and 40 minutes to sprint from DC to
Boston, a distance of only 448 miles, or an average speed of less than 70 mph.
carries 300 passengers on one train per hour.The Chinese HSR carries 1,050 passengers per train and offers four to
six trains an hour.
rides on improved track on a 100-year-old right-of-way with tracks mounted on ties
sitting on rock ballast.The Chinese
train rides a dedicated right-of-way with tracks affixed to a cement roadbed,
like a highway.The smoothness of the
ride was amazing.
Cafe Car on Chinese High Speed Train
single line between Beijing and Shanghai was estimated to cost $32 billion, but
it’s anyone’s guess what the real cost was, given the rampant corruption. But
to my Western eyes, it’s amazing what a totalitarian regime can do,
unencumbered by environmental impact studies and private property rights.This is truly the best HSR in the world.
in Shanghai I also rode the world’s only commercial maglev train:not steel wheels on tracks, but a magnetic
floating train on a guideway.The line
is only 19 miles long, running from the airport to the southern edge of the
city.But at full speed of 268 mph (which
my run did not achieve) the Shanghai Maglev is the world's fastest train in
regular commercial service… faster even than the Chinese HSR.
it was fast.But it wasn’t smooth.And running only to the edge of the city and
not downtown, it is ridden mostly by tourists and rail fans.The few passengers on our mid-day run were
all in the second class cars.Why pay
for first class on an 8 minute ride?
pretty much gave away the construction for just $1 billion, to use the Shanghai
system as a showcase of the technology.Though a 34-mile extension from the international airport (Pudong) to
the domestic airport (Hongqaio) is planned, that’s about all we can expect.
is interesting, but its incompatibility with existing tracks and the requirement
for its own dedicated, unique tracks make the technology unattractive,
especially given the advances in conventional railroading.
can we in the US learn from China’s great leaps forward in railroading?Not much, aside from what is possible
technologically.In this country we have
neither the will nor the money to ever build such a railroad.
transportation at least, China is the future.The US is a third world nation.