China’s High-Speed Rail Line Revolution

China opened or plans to open 42 high-speed rail lines by 2012:

Indeed, the web of superfast trains promises to make China even more economically competitive, connecting this vast country — roughly the same size as the United States — as never before, much as the building of the interstate highway system increased productivity and reduced costs in America a half-century ago.

As China upgrades and expands its rail system, it creates the economies of large-scale production for another big export industry. “The sheer volume of equipment that they will require, and the technology that will have to be developed, will simply catapult them into a leadership position,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s vice president for policy and development… Officials drafted a plan to move much of the nation’s passenger traffic onto high-speed routes by 2020, freeing existing tracks for more freight. Then the global financial crisis hit in late 2008. Faced with mass layoffs at export factories, China ordered that the new rail system be completed by 2012 instead of 2020, throwing more than $100 billion in stimulus at the projects.

Administrators mobilized armies of laborers — 110,000 just for the 820-mile route from Beijing to Shanghai, which will cut travel time there to five hours, from 12, when it opens next year.

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