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High Speed Rail

Japanese Bullet Train
E5 Series Shinkansen Bullet Train in Japan

Introduction

Although this site was created for individual homeowners, wouldn't it be nice not to have to drive to work everyday. With transportation being such a large part of our lives, consider the change in lifestyle, if you could get to where you need to go without having to manage several vehicles per family. Headaches like auto repairs, gas prices, traffic jams, and insurance all go away. With the world's population rising to 9 billion ever the next two decades, the current American automobile transportation model is not only obsolete, it's killing the planet. What we hope to accomplish with these rail pages is to get you excited about the rail transformation and technology, inspire you to become active in pushing your government leaders to quickly pass legislation that encourages mass transit development, and prepare a better future for your children and grandchildren.

The advantages of high speed rail are many.

  • High speed rail gets over 700 miles per gallon per rider. It's difficult to top that with any other mode of transportation.
  • At 150 to 300 miles per hour, you can go from metro to metro much faster than by car.

    Train - Flight Comparison
    Siemans' Train - Flight Comparison

  • The costs to travel by high speed rail will be comparable with an air line ticket for the same distance. However, you'll avoid the hassle long lines and security checks with flights.
  • As the population increases you just add more cars to the train or more trains to the schedule. There's no need to keep adding lanes to a freeway and taking up more and more land.
  • You can be much more productive if you are not driving yourself. You can read a book or get some work done on your lap top computer.
  • Reduced traffic congestion. This is both a benefit to drivers and the environment.
  • All weather travel. With climate change making weather events more severe, trains can keep going, uninterrupted. The same can not be said for planes and cars.

    cars stuck in snow in Chicago
    Cars Stuck in Snow in Chicago

  • No plane crashes. There has never been a high speed rail accident in France or Japan.
  • High speed trains offer a high comfort ride with many features such as Internet access, audio and video entertainment, and comfortable seats with lots of leg room.
  • For operators, high speed rail can be profitable.
  • Jobs creation.

Brief History of High Speed Rail

Train travel has been a popular form of passenger and freight transport since the early 20th century as it replaced horse and buggy travel. The first high speed trains appeared as early as 1933 in Europe and the U.S. when streamliner trains were used to transport goods and people at speeds of around 80 mph (130 km/h). In 1939, Italy introduced its ETR 200 train that had routes from Milan to Florence and was capable of traveling at a top speed of 126 mph (203 km/h). Services and further development for ETR 200 stopped with the beginning of World War II.

After WWII, high speed trains again became a priority in many countries. It was especially important in Japan and in 1957, the Romancecar 3000 SSE was launched in Tokyo. The Romancecar was a narrow gauge train (a narrower area than 4 feet [1.4 m] across between the railroad's rails) and set a world speed record for its ability to travel 90 mph (145 km/h).

Shortly thereafter in the mid-1960s, Japan introduced the world's first high volume high speed train that operated with a standard (4 ft) gauge. It was called the Shinkansen and officially opened in 1964. It provided rail service between Tokyo and Osaka at speeds of around 135 mph (217 km/h). The word Shinkansen itself means "new main line" in Japanese but because of the trains' design and speed, they became known around the world as "bullet trains."

After the opening of the bullet trains in Japan, Europe also started developing high capacity high speed trains in 1965 at the International Transport Fair in Munich, Germany. Several high speed trains were tested at the fair but Europe's high speed rail service was not fully developed until the 1980s.

Meanwhile, the US drilled and produced most of its cheap oil until the 1970s. So cars and trucks became the primary means of transportation. The passenger rail infrastructure in America was ignored, except for one line connecting New York with Washington D.C.

The Technologies Available

Electric Trains

Most high speed trains in use today are electric. The power is received by overhead cantilevers. The electric motors in the power unit are very powerful (using mega-watts of power) and make the train go very fast (up to 300 miles per hour). Electric powered high speed trains for various countries are explained below.

Magnetic Levitation (MagLev)

Maglev technology uses powerful electro-magnets so that the transports float along the track on a cushion of air. This reduces friction, gives a very smooth quality of ride and makes such vehicles relatively quiet. Magnetics are also used for propulsion and braking. The advantage of this technology over conventional steel wheel technologies is that there are massive savings in maintenance.

How Maglev Train Works
How Maglev Train Works

Maglev technology takes advantage of the fact that north and south magnets repel and attract depending on their orientation.

This Discovery Channel video perfectly explains how it works for non-technical people.

JR-Maglev is a magnetic levitation train system developed by the Central Japan Railway Company and Railway Technical Research Institute (association of Japan Railways Group). JR-Maglev MLX01 is one of the latest designs of a series of Maglev trains in development in Japan since the 1960s. On December 2, 2003, a three-car train set attained a maximum speed of 581 km/h (361 mph) (world speed record for railed vehicles) in a manned vehicle run.

In December, 2009, China launched world's fastest train service BEIJING (AFP) China on Saturday unveiled what it billed as the fastest rail link in the world High-speed railway now open. Several high-speed trains are seen in the high-speed railway maintenance base in Wuhan City.

VECTORR Air Powered High Speed Rail Concept

A group of high speed rail developers at Flight Rail Corp. have refined an elevated transportation system that propels by air. The VAC TRAC atmospheric transportation system uses vacuum and air pressure (differential pressure) to move along an elevated guide-way. There are many advantages of this kind of technology.

Developmental Vectorr Train
Flight Rail's Vectorr Train

Advantages of Vectorr High Speed Rail Technology

  • No Pollution
  • Quiet
  • Capable of speeds up to 200 MPH.
  • Minimal environmental impact due to elevation
  • Economical Installation

The VAC TRAC technology is as green as any mechanized transportation system operating today. It minimizes visual, noise, air, and earth pollution. The elevated guide-way reduces the environmental impact to the land with minimal earth moving and fewer tunnels while transporting passengers safely above pedestrian, vehicle, and wildlife grade crossings. More information can be found at Flightrail.com.

LABIS High Speed Rail Concept

The LABIS high speed rail concept uses three great ideas that could be incorporated into other transportation systems. First, the trains are much wider and lower than conventional trains. This gives the LABIS train a much lower center of gravity and allows it to go faster. Secondly, the LABIS trains are lighter, allowing for a minimal impact elevated rail structure. The benefit being that rail lines can be placed just about anywhere. Third, and most valuable, is that LABIS trains don't stop until they reach the terminus. Passenger cars are dropped and picked at stations along the way while the train is moving at full speed. This allows end-to-end trips to be much faster. More information can be found at the LABIS site.

Labis Passenger Pick-up at Full Speed
The LABIS High Speed Train Passenger Drop-off and Pick-up.

Labis Passenger Pick-up at Full Speed
The LABIS pick-up car approaches the main train at full speed

Labis Main Train and Passenger Pick Container Hook Up
Labis Main Train and Passenger Pick Up
Container Hook Up at Full Speed

High Speed Rail by Country

Japan High Speed Rail

Japan probably has the most mature high speed train infrastructure and certainly the highest ridership of any nation. Their planning began in the 1930s and became concrete after the rebuilding of the country beyond World War II.

N700 Japan Bullet Train
N700 Japan Bullet Train

Japan Bullet Train Series Past and Present

During the last 60 years of high speed rail development in Japan there have been many generations of trains. For the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen route, the series numbering started with 0 (zero), then progressed by odd numbering 100s, from 100 through 700. For the Kyushu Shinkansen route, the 800 series trains are used. For the Tohoku, Joetsu, and Nagano Shinkansen routes 200, E1, E2, and E4 series are used. The fastest train in Japan, the E5 series will begin in 2011.

Japan Bullet Train Series Fleet
Japan Bullet Train Series Fleet

Shinkansen Series Years of Service Maximum Speed Number of Cars per Train Seating Capacity
0 Series 1964 to 2008 220 km/h
(136.7 MPH)
4 to 16 368 - 1,340
100 Series 1985 to Now 230 km/h
(142.9 MPH)
4 to 6 250 - 394
300 Series 1992 to Now 270 km/h
(167.77 MPH)
16 1323
500 Series 1997 to Now 300 km/h
(186.4 MPH)
8 to 16 608 - 1323
700 Series 1999 to now 285 km/h
(177.1 MPH)
8 to 16 571 - 1323
N700 Series 2007 to now 300 km/h
(186.4 MPH)
8 to 16 543 to 1323
800 Series 2004 to now 260 km/h
(161.6 MPH)
6 384 - 392
200 Series 1982 to now 240 km/h
(149 MPH)
8 to 16 767 - 902
E1 Series 1994 to now 240 km/h
(149 MPH)
12 1235
E2 Series 1997 to now 275 km/h
(170.9 MPH)
8 to 10 579 - 815
E4 Series 1997 to now 240 km/h
(149.9 MPH)
8 763 - 817

The table above shows the top performing, reliable Japanese trains have high passenger capacity.

Japan Routes

Japan's High Speed Rail System
Japan's High Speed Rail System

Japan High Speed Rail Features

The interior passenger areas of Japanese Shinkansen Series high speed trains are like those of jetliners. They have two to three classes of seating, each with its own comfort levels and features. Full electronic device hook-ups are available, as well as reclining seats, basic food and drink, foldable tables, and lots of leg room. The train stations are like shopping malls and contain every modern convenience to complete the train service.

Japan High Speed Rail Carbon Savings

Traveling Tokyo-Osaka by Shinkansen produces only around 16% of the carbon dioxide of the equivalent journey by car, a savings of 15,000 tons of CO2 per year.

Japan Shinkansen High Spped Railways Continue to Increase Efficiencies with New Train Releases
Japan Shinkansen High Speed Railways Continue
to Increase Efficiencies with New Train Releases.

Japan High Speed Rail Economic Benefits

Having a high speed rail long distance transportation system not only saves continuously adding lanes to freeways, it facilitates development around the rail line. Rather than the suburban sprawl that eats land by square miles, urban areas connected by passenger rail tend to be more compact, taking less land. In Japan 67% of the population lives near a rail center such as Tokyo.

Japan High Speed Rail Time Savings Benefits

You can't drive a car at 150-200 miles per hour on most freeways. Even if you could, you wouldn't be able to read a book, get quality time with your kids, or do some creative thinking. In addition to time saving benefits, the Japanese have increased quality of life and reduced stress by riding rather than driving.

Japan High Speed Rail Latest News - Long Distance Maglev is Coming

The Japanese government will give a go ahead to construct a Maglev line between two large cities, Osaka and Tokyo. This plan mass transportation Maglev plan by the Central Japan Railway Company will revolutionize the way in which we travel long distances. Japan will become the first country to construct a major high-speed Maglev track.

Japan has a long tradition as constructor of bullet trains, but now wants to develop the next generation of train technology to get in ahead of the competition. The new magnetically levitated trains are envisioned as a successor for Japan's iconic Shinkansen bullet trains, first introduced to the world in 1964. The new Maglev line will cost 70.4 billion Euro/102 billion USD (Y8.44 trillion) and Japan hopes to be able to export the technology once it has been perfected. At present, China is the only country running a commercial Maglev service, operating the high-speed magnetic levitation train route in Shanghai on a 30 km (18 mi) route between the international airport and the financial district. In Japan the distance between the two business hubs will be 438 km (272 mi). The Japanese Maglev will travel the distance at a top speed of 500 kph in a mere 67 minutes, 44 % faster than the most advanced bullet trains. Starting from central Osaka to the heart of Tokyo, traveling with the Maglev train will be more convenient than flying because of the travel time to get to the airports. In the coming months, railway company JR Tokai will come up with the exact route. The plan is to run the track through the Southern Alps Mountains to the northwest of Mount Fuji. Before construction starts in 2014, Japan's Ministry of Land, Transport, Tourism and Infrastructure will examine the proposed route for the new Maglev line and the location of stations. The first part of the Maglev project is planned to be operational in 2027, linking Tokyo with Nagoya, a city halfway between Tokyo and Osaka. The full track between Tokyo and Osaka would be finalized in 2045. The bullet train technology will be 80 years old by then, while Maglev technology is more enhanced and constantly being improved upon.

France High Speed Rail

Like Japan, France has a very mature high speed rail system also. The two countries compete for fastest train. All major French cities are connected by TGV, the hi-speed train network which travels at speeds nearly 200 mph. France's hi-speed rail network also connects to neighboring countries.

The French high-speed rail, TGV (train a grande vitesse), service was developed by GEC-Alsthom (now Alstom) and SNCF, the French national rail operator, and is chiefly operated by SNCF. It began its operation in 1978 between Paris and Lyon but soon expanded to connect cities across France and the neighboring countries with its center remaining in Paris.

France TGV High Speed Rail Fleet
France TGV High Speed Rail Fleet

We've developed a short slide show of the France TGV High Speed Rail trains for your enjoyment.

France High Speed Train Series Past and Present

The France high speed rail system began in 1978. New trains with higher efficiencies have been introduced continuously. Although seating capacities are lower than the Japanese trains, more trains are on the schedule. And the trains are used quite extensively by locals and travelers. Make sure you have reservations.

France TGV Trains First Year Maximum Speed Power-to-weight(Empty) Seating Capacity
TGV Sud-Est 1978 270 km/h
(168 MPH)
16.7 W/kg 345
TGV Atlantique 1988 300 km/h
(186 MPH)
19.8 W/kg 459
TGV Reseau 1992 320 km/h
(199 MPH)
23.0 W/kg 361
TGV TMST
Three Capitals
1993 300 km/h
(186.4 MPH)
16.3 W/kg 700
TGV TMST
North of London
1993 300 km/h
(186.4 MPH)
18.4 W/kg 596
TGV Duplex 1994 320 km/h
(199 MPH)
23.2 W/kg 512
Thalys PBKA 1997 300 km/h
(186.4 MPH)
22.9 W/kg 374
TGV POS 2005 320 km/h
(199 MPH)
24.2 W/kg 361

France High Speed Rail Routes

The France high speed system is integrated with other European countries such as Great Britain. Ownership of the trains are therefore also shared. Parts of the lines belong to France and other parts belong to other countries.

  • Eurostar This route carries passengers from Great Britain, through the Channel Tunnel, to Paris, and to Brussels.
  • TGV The TGV routes primarily cover inside France. However, some of these lines extend to the border with connections going into other European countries. Paris is the hub of all TGV routes, which connects to all major cities in France, such as Nice, Bordeaux, and Lyon. using the TGV high speed rail system you can connect to more than 200 cities in greater Europe.

    France TGV High Speed Rail Map
    France TGV High Speed Rail Map thanks to About.com

France High Speed Rail Features

There are many features of France high speed rail. They are comfortable inside, have many ticketing options, and allow you to reach virtually all of Europe, including the most historical places. France high speed rail is used for business and vacation travel. Travel by rail Europe is much more relaxing and economical than flights because of the reduced complexities of security and security taxes. The USA is becoming an undesirable place to visit because of the hassles of airport travel.

The tremendous success of the TGV lines connecting to Paris led to the building of new lines in the south, west, and north east of the country. Nearby countries such as Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom, were encouraged to follow the French and built their own high-speed rail lines.

The TGV high speed is achieved by utilizing the specially-designed LGVs (lignes à grande vitesse or high speed lines) that have no sharp curves, high-powered electric motors, low axle weight, articulated carriages and in-cab signalling that makes it unnecessary for drivers to note line side signals at high speed.

Traveling by TGV has virtually replaced air travel between connected cities especially for trips that take less than three hours travel time. TGV does not require the check-in, security and boarding formalities that are required in air travel. Furthermore, their stations are located in the center of cities which makes them very accessible. They are also a very safe mode of transportation.

France High Speed Rail Carbon Savings

The carbon savings by using high speed rail in France and around Europe are immense. Here's a chart comparing train, car, and plane travel from London to Nice. It's like WOW!

france high speed rail carbon comparison
London to Nice, France Carbon Comparison

France High Speed Rail Economic Benefits

The France high speed rail system has actually been earning a profit since 2007. This is because of the popularity of the trains as well as the higher reliability of electric motors. The trains stay in service for decades. As the power units are relieved of service, they are replaced with more modern, higher efficiency units.

Additional economic benefits can be felt in a country's on a macro-economic as well as micro-economic basis. Sleepy towns and resorts are awakened by increases in tourism. Population densities begin to concentrate around high speed rail train passenger stations, which is good for local businesses and land developers. Easily accessible arts and entertainment events become more popular and frequent. This also positively affects business and science symposiums.

France High Speed Rail Time Savings Benefits

If you have a well developed rail system like France, it becomes the easiest and most convenient method of travel. The security bottle-neck at airports has made them a dread. An hour flight takes five hours, when you count baggage check in, security lines, and delayed take-offs.

Spain High Speed Rail

Spain High Speed Rail
Spain High Speed Rail

Spain followed France and has several high speed rail lines after a difficult start. The first high speed rail line went from Madrid to Seville. Seville was the socialist prime minister Felipe Gonzalez home town. The next to Barcelona was not completed until 16 years later. Today there are several successful lines, but the largest push to expand the high speed rail system in Spain, has begun, and will continue for the next 10 years.

Spain High Speed Train Series Past, Present and Future

Spain built its first high-speed rail line in 1992, connecting the capital city of Madrid with Seville. Sixteen years later, the nation finally completed a high-speed rail connection between its two largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona.

By 2020 Spain will have Europe's largest high-speed network, its 6,000 miles of track out gunning even France's TGV system. By then 90% of the population will be within 30 miles of a station. New lines have already been opened to Segovia, Valladolid and Malaga in the last 18 months. New links will eventually connect France and Portugal.

Spain High Speed Rail Routes

At this time the main routes are between

  • Madrid to Barcelona,
  • Madrid to Seville,
  • Madrid to Cordova,
  • Madrid to Valladolid,
  • Madrid to Zaragosa,
  • Cordoba to Malaga,
  • Madrid to Toledo,
  • Madrid to Valencia,
  • Madrid to Albacete,

Future lines are currently being built and planned are

  • Madrid-Levante,
  • Madrid-Lisbon,
  • Madrid Interconnector,
  • Madrid-Jaen,
  • Valladolid-Vitoria,
  • The Basque Y,
  • Olmedo-Galicia,
  • Venta de Banos-Gijon,
  • The Transversal Axis,
  • The Atlantic Axis,
  • Seville-Cadiz,
  • Murcia-Almeria,

Spain High Speed Rail Features

Spain is a country where the population is spread out around the perimeter, with a vast plateau in the middle. Bringing these far away towns together using the high speed rail system will be a great benefit for the country. In addition, the routes through the country are very scenic. To top it off, Spain has the best weather in Europe. Many vacationers come down from the northern territories and Great Britain to play on the Spanish beaches.

Spain High Speed Rail Carbon Savings

High-speed trains pulled by aerodynamic power units are grounding aircraft across Spain. The year-old Barcelona-Madrid line has already taken 46 percent of the traffic, stealing most of it from fuel-guzzling, carbon-emitting aircraft. Nationally, the Spanish high-speed rail system diverts up to 400,000 passengers per day from its roads, airports, and conventional rail systems. Spain's national railway estimates that the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed rail line averted a quarter-million metric tons of carbon dioxide in its first year of operation. As the high-speed rail network spreads a web of tracks across Spain over the next decade, passengers will find easier and cleaner to travel from city center to city center.

Spain High Speed Rail Economic Benefits

According to a study done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Spain's high speed rail system has already positively impacted the economy on several levels.

  • Smaller towns on routes between two large cities become awakened. Because the length of time to travel to the big city is shortened, the smaller towns become attractive for worker to live in.
  • Young couples trying to buy a house, no longer need to buy two cars for each to commute work, leaving with much higher monthly income to pay a mortgage.
  • Universities in smaller towns along high speed rail lines become more attractive for urban students.
  • The Spanish companies that build the high speed rail-roads are already getting orders from other countries.

Spain High Speed Rail Time Savings Benefits

Many of the time saving benefits have been outlined above. Namely, that the high speed rail lines in Spain bring together far away communities, allowing them to interact socially and economically as never before. As time increasing obstacles are removed, such as signalling, these distances will be shortened even further; thus making it even easier to travel cross country, and thereby, making the high speed rail lines more attractive for ridership.

European Union

There is an extensive passenger rail system that runs through every European country. Following the French high speed rail initiative, other EU members began developing high speed rail lines, many of them connecting with French lines.

Austria, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro-Serbia, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, and Wales.

Europe High Speed Rail Map
Europe High Speed Rail Map

South Korea

Korea High Speed Train
Korea High Speed Train Operated by KTX

Korea Train eXpress (KTX) is South Korea's high-speed rail system. Construction began on the first section of the high-speed line from Seoul to Busan in 1992. The project was later split into two phases, and combined with conventional line upgrades, adding a second route from Seoul to Mokpo. The system's technology is largely based on the French TGV/LGV system, but Korean technology ideas were also included. KTX services started on April 1, 2004. KTX increased ridership and market share, transporting more than 100,000 passengers daily, and became profitable in 2007.

The second phase of the Seoul-Busan project was started service on November 1, 2010, with two sections across urban areas to be completed in 2014. Construction of a second high-speed line will replace the conventional line to Mokpo, began in December 2009, planned for service from 2014. Other new lines and upgraded conventional lines are in various stages of construction or planning.

Top speed for trains in regular service is currently 305 km/h (190 mph), though the infrastructure is designed for 350 km/h (217 mph). This seems to be the case with most high speed rail lines. The speed is kept below maximum for safety reasons. The initial rolling stock, designated KTX-I, was based upon Alstom's TGV Reseau, and was partly built in Korea in the context of a technology transfer. The domestically developed HSR-350x prototype, which achieved the South Korean rail speed record of 352.4 km/h (219.0 mph) in tests, resulted in a second type of high-speed trains operated by Korail, the KTX-II, later re-named KTX-Sancheon. Research is on-going until 2014 with another prototype, the HEMU-400X, to develop the KTX-III, which will operate at 350 km/h (217 mph).

China

China High Speed Train
China High Speed Train

The People's Republic of China has by far the fastest growing high speed rail system in the world. With the world's largest population rising to middle class, the demand for efficient transportation services is endless. Also, because China is not a democratic government, they can bypass the policy discussion phase of high speed rail development. When they decide to do something, a mandate is sent, and with their large low wage labor pool, the project gets done very quickly. The Chinese are actually sub-contracting infrastructure projects in other countries around the world.

China High Speed Train
China High Speed Train

China is investing $292.9 billion in a nationwide high-speed, energy efficient rail network for passengers, and is expecting to reach 10,000 miles by the year 2020.

China High Speed Train
China High Speed Train

China High Speed Train Series Past and Present

After making several attempts to upgrade their existing rail lines for faster passenger service, and trying to produce their own high speed trains in the mid-1990s, the Chinese elected to shop and borrow high speed rail technology from other countries with mature technologies. They first choose Japan's Shinkansen high speed rail technology. However, after protest from their own population, given the history of conflict between the two countries during World War II, they chose to borrow technology from several countries. The conributors were Alstom of France, Siemens of Germany, Bombardier Transportation based in Germany and a Japanese consortium led by Kawasaki. All had to adapt their HSR train-sets to China's own common standard and assemble units through local joint ventures (JV) or cooperate with Chinese manufacturers.

From 2004 until now, China's ferver to build a high speed rail network across the country has been moving full speed ahead. To date the country has spent over $100 Billion USD on high speed rail infrastructure. They plan to spend $300 billion USD to build a 25,000 km (16,000 miles) high speed rail network by 2020. China is enthusiastic about increasing their rail speeds up to 500 kilometers per hour.

Not only are they experimenting with magnetic levitation high speed rail (maglev), they have live maglev service between Shanghai's Longyang Road Metro Station and Shanghai Pudong International Airport since March, 2004. Although the line between the airport and city center is only 30 kilo-meters (18.64 miles), China is investing heavily in expanding maglev high speed rail to longer routes.

China High Speed Rail Routes

China High Speed Rail Features

Being that the high speed rail engines and cars are imported technology, specific train features are similar to those discussed for other countries above. Several features of the China's past transportation infrastructure, type of government, economy, and population give the development of the Chinese high speed rail system an advantage.

  • Existing Normal Speed Passenger Rail System For most of the 20th century in China, passenger trains have been the primary means of intercity travel. There was no freeway system and most of the population did not drive cars. So they already had an extensive shared freight and passenger rail system that connected most urban areas. The implecations of this are that they already have experience managing and maintaining a large rail network.
  • Chinese Goverment Promotes Fast Development Over the last 100 years the USA and other industrialized nations have developed layers and layers of legal web work that puts the emphasis on safety, reducing law-suits, and supporting corporate interests. Whenever there is a traffic problem in America, the laws are set up to automatically add new lanes. There virtually no laws allowing for development of alternative means of transportation. It takes decades or catastrophic disasters (such as 9-11) for new laws to be made. These obstacles don't exist in China.
  • Large Population Makes Highway System Unsustainable At the height of China's industrial expansion, they have begun to build freeways connecting metropolitan areas. But they can not build them fast enough to supply the demand of such a rapidly growing middle class, that is fastly purchasing cars. Developing a high speed rail system is a much better solution for China's large population.
  • Fast Growing Economy Funds Infrastructure Development Even though the rest of the world is in a ressession, China's economy expands by at least 10% each year. They are the world's producer of low cost manufactured goods and as the Chinese worker's income increases, they are fueling demand for their own Chinese made products. Needless to say the Chinese goverment is cash rich and has funded entirely, the new high speed rail system. In most other countries with high speed it has been a partnership between national governments and private companies.
  • Leap-frog Technology Applies Here After three decades of hyper expansion, China went from being an 18th century country to one that looks like the United States in the 1950s. From there, over the past 10 years, they have caught up with most industrialized nations. Their cities have ultra-modern sky-scrapers by the thousands. Their newest factories employ the latest technologies of automation. They are making the right investments in themselves so that they will have an economic advantage for at least the rest of this century. They have observed and evaluated the un-sustainability of the current freeway system that exists today. They have made the right choice in leap-frogging an outdated gasoline-based transportation system by investing heavily in high-speed rail.

China High Speed Rail Carbon Savings

China claims electric trains use less energy to transport people and goods on a per unit basis and can draw power from more diverse sources of energy including renewables than automobile and aircraft, which are more reliant on imported petroleum

China High Speed Rail Economic Benefits

Investment in high speed rail in China is done for reasons that should be universal:

  • Improves economic productivity and competitiveness
  • Stimulates the economy
  • Promotes the growth of urban centers
  • Supports energy independence
  • Supports environmental sustainability

China High Speed Rail Time Savings Benefits

Even before China began building dedicated high speed rail lines, they went through six iterations of upgrading their passenger rail lines, from 1997 through 2007, to reduce travel time between large cities. The line from Beijing to Fuzhou was reduced from 33.5 to 20 hours, for example. Because of the limitations of mixing passenger trains with freight, the China rail ministry began developing a dedicated high speed rail system. Most tracks on the new high speed rail system were elevated to reduce real estate needed, integration with road traffic, and flatter, straighter lines to increase speed.

Taiwan

Taiwan High Speed Train
Taiwan High Speed Train

High speed rail in Taiwan (Republic of China (ROC)) became a necessity because the country out grew its existing infrastructure. Taiwan basically has one high speed rail line running north and south along its west coast. The end points are Taipei and Zuoling.

Taiwan High Speed Map
Taiwan High Speed Rail
Map Runs the West Coast

USA

Because of the availability of cheap oil throughout most of the 20th century, the USA is about 50 years behind other industrialised regions. The Amtrak long distance train system is slow, clunky, rarely on time, and expensive. Ridership is very low. However, many urban areas around the country do have adequate light rail and passenger train service for commuters. The San Francisco Bay Area probably has one of the best mass transit systems, with many overlapping rail systems, such as the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) System, Caltrain Peninsular Rail System, and the Santa Clara County Light Rail Lines. And of course New York has quite an extensive subway system.

According to the transportation secretary on August 9, 2011, there are 32 states are currently planning high-speed rail.

However, compared to other countries and territories, the USA is way behind in mass transit. There have been many great developments and research on high speed rail systems in America. However, until now, because of the domination of cars and planes, most ideas never made it out of the garage. After it became well known the effect that we are having on the planet, thanks to environmental advocates, such as Al Gore, federal and state governments began discussing new policies to promote and encourage alternative means of transportation, such as high speed rail.

Since 2008, there have been many initiatives by states and the federal goverment in providing seed funds to begin development of an American high speed rail system. The following table summarises many of those initiatives as of early 2011.

Location Name of Act Summary Start Date Amount Granted
Federal Government American Recovery and Reinvestment Act High-Speed and Inter-city Passenger Rail First Round of granting to states to begin development of high speed rail system. Early 2010 $2.4 billion
California Proposition 1A The high speed rail system will connect major population areas in California by 200 miles per hour (MPH) passenger trains. It is slated to be the largest infrastructure project in America. When completed, you will be able to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2.5 hours. Senate passed SB-1029 on July 6, 2012, which appropriates federal grant funds and Prop 1A funds for California High-Speed Rail. The system design changed in early 2012. It will now be an integrated rail system, rather than independent. This means high speed trains will share tracks with freight and other passenger trains in urban areas. The benefits are that existing rail services, such as CalTrain in the Bay Area and Metro Service in the Los Angeles area will be upgraded for faster service. The new design claims equivalent transit times between San Francisco and Los Angeles as those promised in the independent high speed rail system. They also claim a cost savings of $30 billion.
Ground breaking event occurred in Fresno January 2015. Project mired in legal battles with local governments and right of way issues.
January 2015 $8 Billion in Bonds
Illinois and the Mid-West Chicago Hub Network, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Midwest Regional Rail Initiative Chicago will be a major high speed rail hub for the Midwestern cities. 2009 About $2 Billion
Florida American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Two major high speed lines connecting Tampa, Orlando, and Miami. Phase 1 will connect Tampa with Orlando. This project is the most concrete and scheduled to start in 2011. The Project was approved by the legislative branch of Florida state government, then vetoed (some say derailed) by republican governor Scott on February 16, 2011. The governor did not want to accept the risk of low ridership. See the announcement and public opinion in the video below. Florida Republicans have also just recently passed new laws limiting voter registration. January 28, 2010 $2 billion in two parts.
Texas - Oklahoma Part of $2.4 billion in Federal Grants for high speed rail. Grant to begin a feasibility study for passenger service from the Mexican border through San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and terminating in Oklahoma City. October, 2010 $5.6 million
Nevada - California DesertXpress
Renamed
XpressWest
This is a proposal to build a privately-funded passenger train from Victorville, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada using off-the-shelf high speed rail technology. Project name changed to XpressWest and expanded to included high speed routes to Phoenix and Denver. Planned to begin in 2011. However, much needed government loan guarantee derailed by republican party: On July 11, 2013, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee and Senator Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee announced in a joint letter that the United States Department of Transportation had advised XpressWest that it had suspended indefinitely consideration of the requested federal loan. 2015+ $5 billion by private funding with government guarantee.

California Senate Approves Funds for High Speed Rail Plan
California Senate Approves Funds for High Speed Rail Plan in July, 2012


Connecting with High Speed Rail - Silicon Valley Transportation Summit 2013 speaker highlights the collateral benefits of California's future high speed rail system.

Florida Governor Scott rejects $2.4 Billion pilot funds for a new high speed rail line in Florida in February 2011.

As skimpy as the US high speed efforts are at this point, big plans are in store for the next 2-3 decades. Below s a map of plan to connect most major cities across the USA by high speed rail.

USA High Speed Rail Plan
USA High Speed Rail Plan by USDOT

As optimistic as the current federal and state governments are now, any of the proposals could be shot down anytime as they pass through the political pin-ball machine.

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