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China's High-Speed Rail Development

China's High-Speed Rail Development

Hi, I'm Lucas Niewenhuis, a news editor at supChina. And today we'll be talking about China's high-speed rail system. U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey in February announced a pair of resolutions called the Green New Deal which include a proposal, to quote, “build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.”

If they wanted inspiration, they could look halfway around the world to China, which is well on its way to a high-speed rail future.

For travel between dozens of major cities in China, taking the train is the easy option, and flying as a second choice.

The trains operate at speeds of 155-217 miles per hour. The network comprises 18,000 miles of railways,planned to extend to 24,000 miles by 2025.

If transplanted to the United States China's high-speed railways would make the entire East Coast and much as the Midwest accessible by high-speed train,with lines probing into the Washington State and Texas.

Typical train ticket costs are reasonable. The Beijing-Shanghai route,which takes five hours, instead of a two-hour flight, is currently as cheap as 553 yuan, or $78. How did China get there?

China already had an extensive conventional railway network, one of the few infrastructure achievements of the Mao era.

The Ministry of Railways began planning China's high-speed rail network in the 1990s, state-owned China railway corporation (CRC) owning and operating all the tracks, trains and services.

China's first conventional high-speed route opened in August 2008 to coincide with the Olympic Games, connecting host city Beijing with nearby Tianjin, a half-hour journey at more than 200 miles per hour.

In 2012 the Beijing Shanghai route opened, probably the busiest line on the network, transporting about 180 million passengers a year - 800 miles - about the distance between New York and Chicago - in five hours.

In 2013 a route connecting Shanghai to Wuhan and spicy food capital Chengdu opened, a 1,200 mile journey that takes about six hours.

The same year the Shanghai-Hangzhou-Fuzhou -Shenzen line was also completed, connecting four of the economic dynamos of the east coast. Lines spreading farther west in China were open in following years.

Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province,was connected with Urumqi and Xinjiang in 2014 and in 2016 a line from Shanghai,all the way through the beautiful mountains of Yunnan province to Kunming was opened.

In 2018 the Beijing/Hong Kong route opened. A ten hours journey from the capital people's Republic terminates at a railway station in Kowloon, that is operated by the mainland Chinese authorities and under Chinese legal jurisdiction. Many Hong Kongers are not comfortable with this.

CRC announced in January 2019 that it planned to open 4225 miles of new high-speed rail in 2019.

Future plans include connecting Tibet to Sichuan and extending the Xinjiang part of the network to Kashgar. In May 2019, CRC unveiled a prototype of a high-speed train using China-developed mag lev technology that is designed to run at 370 miles per hour. But are Chinese high-speed trains safe?

They seem very safe. There has been only one reported accident that led to fatalities in the network's history, however the circumstances of that accident have led to persistent doubts among the public.

On July 23 2011, a high-speed train from Hangzhou to Fuzhou crashed near the city of Wenzhou in eastern China, killing 40 people and injuring more than 100.

The authorities bungled the cleanup and at various times told implausible stories about the cause and progress of disaster relief work, leading to widespread criticism online. Since then, however, a zero accident record, for the better part of a decade, has reassured most Chinese passengers that the trains are safe.