How China’s High-Speed Rail Zooms Past Other Countries >

In a recent article, we explored the slow pace of high-speed rail (HSR) development in the United States and found that a combination of issues, from corporate greed to general bureaucracy, have been major obstacles. In stark contrast, there is no doubt that China has deployed HSR at a pace unlike any country so far in history.

Chinese HSR. (Image courtesy of Reuters.)

China has laid about 19,000 km (roughly 12,000 miles) of HSR line in just nine years. And it has done so while pioneering new techniques and overcoming challenging obstacles, such as tunneling through mountains beneath the Great Wall. To learn more, we examined the country’s still rapidly expanding HSR infrastructure.

Building Fast Trains Fast

Though China was able to roll out its HSR network extremely quickly, that isn’t to say that HSR planning itself was fast. According to Cui Dianguo, chairman of CRRC Corporation Limited, former de facto chairman of China Deng Xiaoping was so impressed with Japan’s Shinkansen, the world’s first HSR railway, that he sought to have his own country develop HSR. Initial plans for an HSR line to connect Beijing and Shanghai were submitted in 1990, but it wasn’t until 2000 that planning began in earnest. 

In the meantime, the country began improving its railways via the “Speed-Up” campaign, so that they could handle speeds that would increase from 48 km/h (30 mph) to 160 km/h (100 mph). The first HSR line was developed from the Guangzhou-Shenzhen…

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