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.