Australia Left standing by China's bullet trains  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The SMH has an article on China's high speed rail revolution and the country's role in building trains for Sydney's aging local rail network - Left standing by China's bullet trains.

Three years ago China had planned to lay 13,000 kilometres of high-speed railway by 2020, which would be more than the rest of the world combined.

Then the global financial crisis intruded and Beijing brought that 2020 deadline forward by eight years, while redefining ''high speed'' to mostly mean faster than 350 km/h, rather than 250.

China's bullet train project is as ambitious and potentially nation-changing as the 19th century railways that opened up the US. Already it has created millions of jobs, pushing up wages for the country's long-struggling workers, and sucked in tens of millions of tonnes of Australian iron ore to produce the high-tensile steel for tunnels, bridges and track.

One of the 42 new lines, on which construction began in 2008, will begin zipping passengers over 1300 kilometres and across 244 highly-engineered bridges between Beijing and Shanghai in just four hours from next year. Another is already taking passengers 114kilometres from Beijing to Tianjin in less than 30 minutes.

The World Bank describes China's leap as "the biggest single planned program of passenger rail investment there has ever been in one country". And, unlike in many countries, it says fast rail in China has been well-planned and makes economic sense. Last month the country's long distance trains carried 160 million passengers, 18 million more than the previous July.

China's provincial backwater cities are being dragged into the world economy. Rail space is opening up for freight, taking the burden off the roads and, with any luck, reducing the regularity of events like the four-week old, 100kilometre traffic jam of coal trucks that is now stuck north-west of Beijing.

Lu Xiwei, the general manager of China Railway Vehicles Co, is working around the clock to put rolling stock on all that new track.

"I never have even one day's rest a year," says Mr Lu at his sprawling factory headquarters in Changchun, yet another booming city of 5 million people in the country's far north. "In 365 days I can guarantee I work 364."

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