High-speed rail in China
As we all become more conscious of our carbon footprints, train travel as an alternative to air travel is becoming increasingly popular – where it is available. In Western Europe, in particular in France, the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) has allowed people to travel at speed – the fastest scheduled rail journey with a start to stop average speed of 279.4 km/h (173.6 mph) on the line from Lorraine to Champagne. However, this record has been surpassed by the Chinese CRH service on the Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway in 2009.
The Chinese trains have clocked peak speeds of up to 394 kilometers per hour (or 245 miles per hour). They have also recorded an average speed of 312 kph on several occasions.
The line in question is a 968-kilometer line linking Wuhan, in the heart of central China, to Guangzhou, on the south eastern coast. The trains being used are Chinese developments of Japan’s Shinkansen and Germany’s InterCity Express high-speed trains. The implementation of the high-speed trains has cut the previous time of ten and a half hours, to less than three hours.
What makes the Chinese line different from those found in Europe and Japan, is that in Europe we tend to adapt older tracks, whilst this one was designed from the ground up for very high-speed operation over hundreds of kilometres. Bridges and tunnels, as well as the concrete bed beneath the track, have been designed to safely rocket passengers around, through, or over any obstacles that would otherwise force the trains to slow down. In America, yet to build high-speed rail links, they hope to benefit from the Chinese developments, especially the new track beds. The first of the American high-speed links will be a 790-mile system in California, linking San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacremento. The California High Speed Rail Authority believe the system will reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions by nine million tons by 2050, since high-speed rail is three times more efficient than flying, and five times more efficient than driving per passenger mile.
The Chinese believe that their High-speed rail is a clean way to boost the expansion of China’s transportation system which is expected to more than triple to five billion passengers per year by 2020. These lines are seen as preferable to further expanding reliance on imported oil for cars and airplanes. It can’t be bad for the environment either.