China Slows Trains on Safety Concerns
Chinese bullet trains will be slowed from 220mph to 190mph as of July 1st. The reduced speed will allow for safer travel as well as a possibility of greater variation in ticket prices for travelers. Cheaper tickets will be issued for trains running at speeds from 125mph – 155mph and run on existing trucking rails rather than on main high speed commuter rails.
With 56,000 miles of passenger rail and nearly 3 million employees, China is home to the world’s largest train network. The Chinese train system is not just for transportation between China’s spread out communities, the immense rail system also serves a symbol of China’s technological expertise and growing wealth. China is building more tracks and faster trains than any other country in the world.
While held in extreme prestige, the Chinese rail system does have its critics. Chinese engineers have said that the operation of such high speed bullet trains is risky and there are fears that the fast and continuing expansion of the railroads is more due to local Chinese politics rather than an actual social need for high speed rail transportation. The high price of train tickets and the multibillion dollar price tag for rail expansion projects has also raised eyebrows in a country where millions of families live in poverty.
During the Lunar New Year holiday many Chinese working class travelers complained they could not afford high speed train tickets and that tickets for regular trains were sold out. A migrant worker became an internet sensation when he stripped to his underwear to protest outside a train ticket office after he waited 14 hours in line but could not get train tickets for himself and his family. China did overtake Japan last year as the world’s second largest economy after the United States. However, with 1.3 billion people, China barely places in the top 100 on the World Bank’s list of countries by average income per person.
The Chinese national audit office reported in March that $28 million had been embezzled from a major Chinese rail expansion project and that some bullet train lines are not operating at optimal speed capacities. A 72 mile high speed line linking Beijing with Tianjin cost $3.3 billion to build; yet the line is so short for the high speed train that the train hits its 220 mph cruising speed for only a few minutes before it slows for arrival at the train station.
With all their many faults, the Chinese bullet trains are a very successful form of clean energy transportation. The Chinese government hopes that successful technological leaps made in their rail system can be a jumping off point for China to transform into a worldwide creator of technology, rather than China just being an inexpensive place to manufacture goods.
Current Chinese government plans call for spending $106 billion on railroad building this year alone. Chinese officials say the high speed rail network will grow to 8,000 miles of track by the end of this year and 10,000 miles of track by the year 2020. That is in addition the already 56,000 miles of passenger rail, containing both high speed rail and regular rail, already in place. China also aims to have the fastest trains in the world, with speeds up to 1,000 KPH (620 MPH).
China’s bullet trains are based on German, French, and Japanese technology and recently a senior railway official said Chinese manufacturers might compete for contracts to build a high speed rail lines in California. News of a high speed rail system being established in California is nothing new and has been talked about for over 30 years. However, many American’s identify passenger rail with cultural values that they fear. Passenger rail is physically restrictive, requires a form of central administration telling the traveler when they will depart and arrive at their destination, and for better or worse it is how the Europeans and Chinese travel.
In a nation that is demanding to “take their country back”, America is actually at risk of falling behind other developed nations in economic output, quality of life, and now mobility. Less than a decade ago China was still operating steam locomotives and now by 2014 China will have twice as many miles of high speed, clean running, rail as the rest of the world combined.
Source: Yahoo News
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail.