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Updated: October 27, 2010 10:54 IST

China unveils world's fastest train

Ananth Krishnan
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A CRH380A train sets out from a terminal of the Shanghai-Hangzhou High-Speed railway, in Shanghai. Photo: Xinhua
A CRH380A train sets out from a terminal of the Shanghai-Hangzhou High-Speed railway, in Shanghai. Photo: Xinhua

China on Tuesday unveiled what it described as the world's fastest bullet train, which will connect two of the country's industrial hubs travelling at an average speed of 350 km per hour.

The rail link between Shanghai and Hangzhou, the latest addition to China's fast-expanding high-speed rail network that is already the world's largest, covers the 200-km distance in only 45 minutes, reducing the travelling time from 78 minutes.

The home-built CRH380 bullet train has been recorded travelling at 420 km per hour, a world record. It will, however, travel between the two cities at less than full tilt, at an average speed of 350 km per hour.

China's high-speed rail network now stretches over 7,431 km. The government plans to expand the network to over 16,000 km by 2020.

Investment in the high-speed rail network has gathered pace since the first line, connecting Beijing with the port city Tianjin, opened in 2008.

Following the $586-billion stimulus plan that was announced in November 2008, spending on infrastructure projects has increased substantially.

China is investing an estimated $300 billion on its high-speed rail network.

The investment has divided opinion — some planners have cautioned that local governments will struggle to recoup the investment. Others have argued the rail network will spur economic development by boosting connectivity.

“The operation of the Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed rail line will help alleviate traffic pressure in the Yangtze River Delta region”, which is in China's manufacturing heartland, said Liu Zhijun of the Minister of Railways. The Ministry forecasts that passengers will make more than three billion trips in and out of the Yangtze delta in 2010, spurring development.

China has also begun work on a 1,318-km high-speed rail line linking the country's two most important cities — Beijing and Shanghai. The $33-billion line will open in 2012, reducing the travel time between the capital and the financial centre in half, to just five hours.

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Hi, I am a Chinese living in the U.S. and would like to provide a few views of my own on this subject. To be honest, I am even quite surprised to see that China has been able to build high a speed rail system from scratch in a span of just 4 years since initial construction began in 2006. My first high speed rail experience in China is in 2007 between the ancient capital of Xi'an and Baoji in western China. To clarify some things: a lot of news reports in western media (Financial Times, NYTimes, Economist) have been very skeptical of China's high speed projects, claiming that it's too "expensive for ordinary people" and are just confined to "big cities" like Beijing and Shanghai. That is not true. The first high speed train I took was between the city of Xi'an and Baoji, a very modest town in western China. The trip lasted 70 minutes (as opposed to older trains which take up 3+ hours), and the ticket price is 50 yuan for second class ($7.40 USD) and 60 yuan ($8.90 USD) for first class. Trust me, these prices are very fair even for ordinary people and peasants, because a slower bus trip would usually cost 30 to 40 yuan anyway. The train was PACKED, and almost half of the passengers I saw were from rural areas who were migrating to other parts of the country to find work. The other half of the passengers were middle-class urban residents who looked more sophisticated and well-dressed. Before I boarded the train, I thought I would be the only one to use my laptop on the train. Much to my surprise, half of the passengers in the cabin were surfing the net or watching movies on their laptops (an old man sitting beside me was watching some movie on his cellphone throughout the whole trip and was complaining constantly how the signal was crappy in these new, 100% air-tight trains...). The speed was 250 km/hr. In 2009 and 2010, I went to China again and took the bullet trains from Shanghai to Suzhou in eastern China and then from Beijing to Tianjin. They have upgraded their speed by then to 350 km/hr (both trips lasted less than 30 minutes compared to previous trains that took 2 hrs+). They also have high frequency, with a train leaving the station every 22 minutes from early morning to midnight. The speed of development in the last few years was just amazing even in normal Chinese standards (which is pretty fast...a highway linking Olympic village and the rest of beijing only took 7 months to finish in 2008...and no it did not collapse.Now that I have stated the amazing development by China in recent years, I also want to emphasize some aspects that may be quite familiar to Indian readers. 1. Despite the speed of completion, corruption is always there in China. There's a joke in China that every public project completed will land a few officials in prison for graft and bribery charges. Every 6 months, the central government in Beijing would initiate a sweeping anti-corruption campaign throughout the entire country in every level of government. This has been going on since the early 1990s, and although the effects of these campaigns are limited (officials have gotten smarter...), they do yield results and serve as a deterrent for future perpetrators. Besides, the Chinese public likes these anti-corruption campaigns because it provides an opportunity to lodge their complaints and grievances. 2A lot of people in China are still perceived as “uncivilized” by western standards. I don't mean their living standards, but mainly their behaviour in public. I'd assume India also has similar problems. Spitting, talking loudly in public, disregard for public facilities, and “free riding” mentality where people are willing to do anything when it's free. In response, the Chinese government has been very insistent upon this problem because it wants its people to emerge as modern, progressive, and respectful citizens. These campaigns are called “civilization campaigns” and can be seen in every Chinese town and city. Thankfully, the situation has gotten a lot better now than in the 90's, because public awareness of this issue is very high and almost everyone is concerned about his/her image and how it would in turn reflect China's image on the international stage. 3. Institutional Reform. Most ordinary Chinese know that India has a democratic system that probably works fine for India. However, when applied in China, they don't see it that way. Despite curbs on freedom of speech and franchise, the majority of people in China are content with the current organization of government. Of course, despite the outside appearance that China is just one “single” entity with brutal authoritarian efficiency, there are actually a lot of internal disagreements and sometimes open conflicts. Public protests are tolerated in China as long as they don't plan to overthrow the Communist Party (that's the “forbidden line”). Government policies and public issues are already extensively debated and covered on TV and internet, as long as they stay away from targeting the central government in Beijing (everyone else can be openly protested against, including local Party officials, etc.). Contrary to a lot of media reports in the UK and US, the Chinese government is actually very reluctant to employ physical force to quell discontent, unless it's absolutely necessary to maintain stability. Most protests and public disputes are settled by local governments through mediation, negotiation, and bargaining because local and central officials don't want the discontent to spread and endanger economic stability. On the other hand, violent force has been used in the past. Tiananmen 1989, Falungong spiritual movement in 1999, to name a few. But these have already become pretty rare instances because the Chinese government knows that open force would only create more discontent and anger of the people. Overall, freedom of speech and expression (albeit some special cases like Nobel prize winner Liu) has been gradually progressing because many Chinese people today feel that they have a lot more room to openly express themselves than ever before in the history of China. Sorry for such a long post! I just want to share my thoughts and feelings about a subject I am familiar with and I hope people in India would try to look beneath the usual surface of popular media reports and learn more about the real China, which is almost as diverse and complex as things in India. And I thank all of you for having such an avid interest in the growth of China. I don't know about others, but as a Chinese myself, I have no intention of falling back into the same mistakes that my ancestors made in the past.

from:  James in China
Posted on: Nov 9, 2010 at 04:01 IST

India's fastest train is the Japan and China's slowest trains. Even their goods train run about 150+. Elevated or underground tracks can be used for bullet trains as been used for Delhi metro . We need private sector to get in and should be given deadlines with penalties to do the project.

from:  Deepak
Posted on: Nov 3, 2010 at 17:41 IST

In actual fact, this is not the world's fastest train, but the world's fastest 'operating' train (as is stated in most Chinese reports). I don't understand why most English reports ignored the 'operating' part. The French TGV experimental train-set has reached a speed of 541 km/h on an experimental track before, and that is still the fastest train. This Chinese train did break a record, but the record is for unmodified commercial trains -set on regular ballast-less tracks.

from:  hammy
Posted on: Nov 2, 2010 at 21:20 IST

I did not see any comments from USA. As a Canadian I can see we because of low population density for the time are stuck with air travel.

from:  Anton Opsetmoen
Posted on: Oct 29, 2010 at 08:44 IST

Who are we really kidding here? Comparing ourselves to China? There really has been a lot of hype/arguments saying India is growing faster than China, and vice versa, but I think the intent from the top (politicians) in India was and is never there. India's growth figures are mainly due to the services sector boom and the numbers alone dont show the true picture. The tax collected must be quite substantial which if invested in infrastructure and other development schemes with proper intent, India will surely go places. But with the people at the top currently, a project like this would only result in more corruption, taxpayer money going into the wrong hands and i dont dare think about the consequences of the bad quality of execution, which is what we have come to expect nowadays. On the other hand China's goverment has a strong and aggressive leadership which has a big intention to lead the world in all sectors, and that shows in stuff like this.

from:  srini
Posted on: Oct 29, 2010 at 02:27 IST

political leaders should be risk takers and boldly invest our 275million USD in infrastructure projects.We are now investing the reserves again and again in US treasury bills . we have to hitch our wagon to the star said Pandit Jawarlal Nehru. If we do not take appropriate risks we cannot build a powerful economy.Only a powerful economy can provide military might to prevent Chinese blackmail of our borders.

from:  viswanathan
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 19:02 IST

Why dream of high speed rail links when local metro rail links takes 10 yrs to build and operate!!!

from:  Guru
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 14:57 IST

I read all the comments,
and happy to see such knowledgeable persons around,but the thing is that no body pointed out the way to achieve this.some say it is 25 years, some say 100 years to get that train on track.
Money is not a problem, call an IPO for connecting all the metros and under the guidance of Mr.Sreedharan chief Delhi metro,
we have money , manpower, implementing ability ....
so Instead of making hope less comments, we find the ways to make this reality.
lets start the race now by making a change.

from:  Hanuman Dokku
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 12:09 IST

Whom to blame the politicians...authorities..or the people......

from:  Serji Jamal
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 11:50 IST

We cannot compare Development of Chinese Railway and Indian Railways. Chinise Government is investing huge amount for developping Railways.During 1950's China was behind India regarding the Track length. Now they are far ahead. The CAG recently critisized Railways regarding huge gap between railway's commitment and execution of Safety Related projects.Also there are 86108 vacancies which includes Loco Pilots, Station masters, Gang men etc. The hours of Employment Regulation existing in Railways is outdated. This rules compels staff like Loco Pilots to work 13 hours at a stretch. And keep them away from their house for 3 to 4 days. Our Railway Minister is not finding time to study and find some solutions for these lapses, instead she is blaming Bengal Govt for accident.

from:  C.Sunish
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 09:59 IST

I felt very happy when heard the news of world's fastest train made by china bec it is our neighbour. India has also second highest rly track. I wish India also made fastest train if in future india will not give example like common wealth!!!

from:  Jadeja Arvindsinh
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 09:51 IST

There is no such need to build a bullet train for India. Those amounts can be used for infrastructure like roads, drinking water and rural education. Try to feed the more than 30% starving people. Food is available at a cheaper rate in the Parliament Canteen for those poor MPs at subsidized rates. But food prices are at exorbitant rates for common man.

from:  R. KRISHNAN
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 08:34 IST

come on people i agree that indian railways is not one of the best , but it is not one of the worst before 7 years no people in delhi would have imagined that delhi would have metro rail that also with such an expansion so have some faith in your government and railways, fast trains would run in near future but it would take some time bcos even govt. don't have any magic wand or alladin's magic lamp......

from:  sandeep
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 07:09 IST

we are importing so many things from china because we can not resist. why not high speed bullet train concept in whole or part and link our cities with that. we have to wake up to the reality one day or otherwise. why not now itself?

from:  l chandrasekaran
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 07:00 IST

Highly inspiring to all planners but it needs sheer will power and commitment....still our bridges are crumbling down...

from:  Balakrshnan nambiar
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 06:22 IST

Kudos to Chines Team and their Leaders.It should be really an eye opener for India.It amy be noted that Chinese leaders are great visionaries and they started spending more on infrastructure only during the last one decade and the speed in which they grow, I am confident that they will become world's biggest Economy before 2030 itself. Let our leaders take some inspiration from China and accelerate the developments - mainly in infrastructure and manufacturing sectors instead of making populist schemes keeping only vote bank politics in mind.

from:  R C PILLAI
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 06:20 IST

I dont think Indian railway will do something good like this. The bullet train which was included in Budget will be only a dream for next 20 years.

from:  Srinivasan K
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 05:01 IST

Only one man Narendra Modi Gujarat Chief Minister has the vision and will to achieve all this. He is happily making Gujarat a full fledged developed country by 2020 and he will do it. By Developed i mean equal basic standard of living for everyone in every part of the state.

from:  Vishy
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 03:26 IST

This kind of high-speed transport systems would reduce the pressue on housing and population density in cities. It would be more useful in India by connecting Delhi-Chandigarh, Mumbai-Pune, Bangalore-Chennai, Channai-Madurai. Linking big cities with some growing cities would be more beneficial and helpful for small cities to retain high-income/intellectual people.

from:  Subbu
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 02:43 IST

I think China has got it right on this one. Cheap, reliable and rapid mass transport will be a driving factor in any developing nations economy.The need of the hour is to reduce the reliance on oil. These trains run on electricity and China has lots of coal and upcoming hydro electric and nuclear power plants can feed these trains. India went the US way and is building expressways which is an outdated idea back when US had access to cheap oil. US itself is now looking into investing in high speed rail network.

from:  narayanan
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 01:14 IST

As far as the current politicians are alive and still in power, India cannot think on these lines. Atleast 90% of the politicians are busy showing they are improving, but nobody knows with whom they are comparing. Maybe Indian Railways will come up with a High-Speed Rail link which will have a top speed of 120 or maybe 150 (with many accidents) due to the cheap labour and technology used. It's better not to have this technology unless we remove the current politicians.

from:  Vinay Pawar
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 23:38 IST

Do we really need high-speed rail. Has anybody been to any railway crossing? I've seen many people crossing the railway lines with cycles, scooter, pedestrians etc. even if the signal is closed. We do not respect our own lives, how can we think of a high-speed rail. We do not respect Rail property, we damage seats, chains, windows, doors, fans, we spit anywhere inside the train, do not keep it clean etc. I've experienced travelling by train for many years. I totally disagree with all those who commented here.

from:  venu
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 19:57 IST

Distance between our National Capital, Delhi and financial centre, Mumbai is 1400kms, just 100kms more than the distance between Beijing and Shanghai. Can anyone predict when we will cover this distance 1n 5hrs by train?

from:  Sridharan
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 18:52 IST

On the one side people will argue for these investment as inspiration but i really dont believe that we are in such a hurry to invest this way (300 bn out of 500 bn) for high technology, expensive fast trains over feeding people first. These will not be in the reach of common people. Rather we learn to have safe, clean and timely operations of our existing train services and expand further to new places instead of doing everything for West Bengal. What else we can learn is of Timely executions of Projects.

from:  rahul bansal
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 18:41 IST

Please stop comparing China and India as there is definetly no competition. Its already embarrasing enough that a multinational,multicultural event like the CWG was such a mess

from:  ben
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 18:34 IST

No Sir - not in the next 100 years or even 1000 years. Indian Railways is the most shameful enterprise in the world. While our Software capability/ Defence capability/ Satellite design/launch capabilty and the communication networking- etc are at par with international standards, the Railways have not improved even 1% since independence. It takes 18 hrs for the fastest train to cover the most important cities Bombay-Delhi - speed of less than 80 kilometers/hr. The design/interior has not changed since 1947. And even after 60 years of independence, the track between Bombay and the two highly industrialized cities in the south- Banglore and Chennai- is not doubled.

from:  narasimhhan
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 16:35 IST

Inspirational! India needs to accelerate its Infrastructure spend. We need to set stretch targets like these. We should not be complacent with the bits and pieces of multi-laned highways that have been built so far.

from:  Sarath
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 16:34 IST

I seriously doubt the benefits of High speed railway construction. The fares of these services should be higher to be viable (even higher than Air fares). Instead we can cut the taxes on Air lines and use the investment to build something more useful in the short and medium term.

from:  Dileep Varma Kalidindi
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 16:30 IST

China's progress in the railway field is appreciable. It has built the line from Beijing to Lhasa passing through the highest and the most difficult terrain in the planet. It has recently produced its own model of a high speed train, forcing the multinational companies who are specialist in the field to think of making future joint ventures with China. Recently it also envisioned its aim of introducing a rail connection between Berlin-Belgrade-Istanbul-Urumqui and Beijing making a reality of what once Hitler threatened (Berlin-Baghdad rail line)much to the mortal fear of the Allies. Close on the establishment of a new SEZ at Khasghar recently, it also announced its plans to link it with Kazahkstan and Afghanistan by rail connection with a view to reap the entire potential of the markets of Central Asian States and Afghanistan and Pakistan. As against this, however, we have recently the news of the Indian Railways Vision 2020 document which envisions a high speed rail network connecting Mumbai with Ahmedabad in two hours! Recently, our Planning Commission wailed at the situation where there are a large number of railway projects which have been unduly delayed with overrun on costs, etc. and had sought the establishment of an overseeing body to avoid such mistakes. A simple charting out the mileage of the Delhi-Kolkatta, Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai, Delhi-Trivandrum, Mumbai-Howrah and lastly Mumbai-Chennai would reveal how much time Indian Railways express trains take to cover these metros; you will be shocked to know that even in this chart, you will find that though the Mumbai-Chennai is the shortest route it takes more time than the travel time in other and much longer routes mentioned above. And to top it, the trains running between Mumbai and Chennai have been pegged at 3 for the last 63 years. This is just one instance of apathy. A lot of renovation and upgradation of lines and equipment is long awaited all over India. Certainly, there is a new vision called on the part of the Railways. The catalogue of achievements made by our neighbouring China should be an occasion to remind ourselves of our ailing Indian Railways, the last of its self inflicted misfortunes being the absence of close attention and leadership from its minister who seems to have other important priorities than her official remit.

from:  s subramanyan
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 16:23 IST

India should build high speed rail linking all 4 major cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai reaching speeds of 300km or 350km per hour. This will also promote tourism in a big way. India has the capacity and the capability as we boast having the largest rail network in the world. I personally hope the Prime Minister will take this as his pet project to see implemented successfully.

from:  Michael Uthariyam
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 16:18 IST

Is India Listening!! Can we have atleast one fast rail link like this in between Delhi-Bangalore, which can help common man to not to fly on exhorbitant fares....

from:  Dhirendra
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 13:44 IST

Any ministers talking about India shining should really read this article. The point that really drives home is that China is building this AT HOME and not by asking the West to come and do the job for them.

from:  johny
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 10:24 IST

I wish India will make one like this in next 25 years

from:  ramesh
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 08:37 IST

We look forward to a day when we reach Delhi from Chennai in around six hours. If China could do it, why not we?

from:  G Venkateswaran
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 07:50 IST

Nice.But see the scenario in India.How many bottles necks were created by corruption in the construction of a metro network, and shoddy contractors have to be black listed.We have to learn how to minimise corruption,as it cannot be wiped out in a jiffy.

from:  K.Sugavanam
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 07:22 IST

This is one example where we can compare how India is very slow in developing infrastrutures.We are 30 to 50 years behind China. No doubt we need a solid stable Government and Good leader, corruption free officials and politicians.This can be only in some movies or in our dreams.

from:  Chinna Ram
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 06:45 IST

when India will develop this type of infrastructure ? This is very good to reduce traffic jam on road.

from:  Satish Jamshedpur
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 06:43 IST

Well.What can I say about this ironey. on this page depicting high-speed rails, the embodiment of modernity with an inherent old face we have the picture of our "derailed Indian train" alongside. Nobody even goes and checks that picture out just because " Indian trains derailment off the tracks" has become such a common scenario that we wonder if our record of being the largest railway network in the world is a boon or bane?

from:  Dr.K.Amritha
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 06:36 IST

Let Indian Railways maintain the exact ruuning hours of our tarvel time as schedule.It is not happening.Let us hope bullet train reach India shortly.

from:  jeyakumar
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 06:32 IST

Every day China amazes me. Say, what you will, a communist country, no democracy, no freedom for journalists, censorship, but when it comes to development...China is unrivaled. India, keep watching, you are only half a century behind China.

from:  Ganesh Jaygan
Posted on: Oct 27, 2010 at 03:56 IST
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