China plans to create the world's largest high-speed rail network. The Chinese Ministry of Railways is planning to buy 1,000 high-speed trains within the next few years. The current order from Siemens (SI) includes the first trains to serve the new high-speed line between Bejing and Shanghai.
German train producer Siemens has inked a $1 billion contract to build 100 new high-speed trains for China. The company's Velaro train has a top speed of 218mph (350.84km/h). A typical train will have 16 cars and carry more than 1,000 passengers. With a total length of more than 1,300 feet (396.24m), the new trains will be the world's longest single high-speed units in use, according to Siemens.
By the end of the first quarter 2009, the approved Chinese railway investment exceeds $292 billion including more than $175 billion investment in the process projects. The data shown in the recent “Research Report on the Investment in Chinese Railway Transport Industry, 2009” indicates that China plans to construct 40-thousand-kilometer railways with the total investments of over $730 billion by 2012.
This is a smart strategy for China, which is a major oil exporter and has to get that oil from countries that are more closely allied to the US than to anyone else. China also has a need to provide sustainable transportation for its population, and a need to provide jobs to its people during a consumer-led recession.
Obviously there are differences between the US and China - they have huge currency reserves they can spend on this, whereas the US has huge private, concentrated wealth reserves (thinking of the richest 5% of the population or so) nobody really is willing to touch. But if we have the capacity to blow a trillion on a bank bailout that won't really provide long-term economic growth, surely we can spend more than $13 billion on HSR. Right?
The Infrastructurist has a good take on this:
Dithering and doing things half-way are not among the national character flaws that might be pinned on the Chinese. One has the sense that if that country ever gets serious about greening up, it will do it with a rapidity and effectiveness that will make western nations look downright silly.
And, perhaps, they’re already at it with this plan to build the world’s largest high-speed rail network. As of March 31, China has committed $259 billion to the project, and plans to spend nearly a half trillion dollars more in the next three years, boosting the total investment to $730 billion by 2012.
A little context here: The US–a country with a per capita GDP about 16 times that of China–has set rail as a national priority and has committed… $13 billion. Or, about 2 percent as much in China. This, of course, is in a place where it costs a hell of a lot more to get anything done.
Of the Chinese investment, at least $1 billion is going to the German conglomerate Seimens for the purchase 100 high speed train sets. They will be, on average, 16 cars–or 1300 feet–in length, capable of carrying 1000 passengers, and capable of traveling 218 mph. Moreover, they will be running on tracks designed to accommodate that speed. Unlike, say, the Acela.
Ultimately, the Chinese government plans to buy 1000 high speed trains to run on a track network of around 25,000 miles.
Why, oh, why do we have such difficulty approaching serious projects with the required seriousness in this country?
Sure, sure, China doesn't really have labor or environmental standards, or even democracy. We have each, rightly so, and that adds some time and cost to massive infrastructure projects. The tradeoff is worth it. But those differences don't change the fact that China's moving to better position itself for the 21st century than the US. At least we here in California have stepped up to approve our HSR project, the only thing the US has to offer that comes anywhere near China's plans.
Lest we forget, HSR is seen around the world as a strategic necessity for 21st century prosperity in a global economy. Americans aren't trained to think in those terms, since we found prosperity and global leadership with a 20th century economy based on oil consumption, sprawl, and cars. It's difficult to get people out of that mindset and recognize that times have changed and a new basis of growth and prosperity is needed.
Perhaps China's setting of the bar can inspire Americans to catch up - to California and to the rest of the industrialized world.