China Considers High Speed Rail Line Connections to Europe

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EU Observer – China is exploring the possibility of extending its high-speed train network as far as Europe, potentially cutting rail travel time between London and Beijing to as little as two days. Officials hope to see the project completed over the next ten years, enabling passengers to travel the roughly 8,000 kilometre journey at speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour. China is currently in the middle of a vast railway expansion project that aims to build nearly 30,500 kilometres of new railways in the next five years, connecting all its major cities with high-speed lines. China’s internal high speed rail plans were reported here along with a comparison of the US high speed rail plans

NY Times reports China will spend $88 billion constructing intercity rail lines, the highest priority in the plan. It spent $44 billion last year and just $12 billion as recently as 2004.

The government has nearly finished the construction of a high-speed rail route from Beijing to Shanghai at a cost of $23.5 billion — almost equal to the price of the entire Three Gorges hydroelectric dam project on the Yangtze River. The authorities recently disclosed that they had 110,000 workers laboring to finish the route as quickly as possible.

This is a map of low speed train routes, but the proposed high speed rail lines would be going over roughly similar routes

Two lines to Europe are reportedly being considered under the proposals, one passing through India, Pakistan, and the Middle East, while a second would head to Germany via Russia. Exact routes are currently undecided however. A third line would extend south from China to connect Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia.

Financing the project appears to be the main question, with China offering to bankroll the Burmese line in exchange for the country’s rich reserves of lithium, a metal used in batteries.

“We will use government money and bank loans, but the railways may also raise financing from the private sector and also from the host countries,” said Mr Wang, indicating the new lines would also be used to carry freight.

European experts say the current low maritime transport costs make it harder to justify an EU-China rail line on commercial grounds however.

Network Rail has proposed a new £34bn ($55bn) high-speed railway line linking Scotland and London by 2030.

High speed rail is displacing short haul (less than 3 hour) plane routes

High-speed railways will connect all of China’s provincial capitals and cities with more than 500,000 citizens by 2020, serving more than 90 percent of the population, the Ministry of Railways said.

China’s high speed rail present and future

Times Online UK: Continental Europe now has 3,600 miles of high-speed line in operation, with a further 2,000 under construction. China will have 6,000 miles open by 2012.

NY Times: China is investing $292.9 billion (2 trillion RMB) in a nationwide high-speed, energy efficient rail network.

China accelerated its high-speed-rail development plan last year in the wake of the global financial crisis, saying it would increase the passenger network by a third to 16,000 kilometers, or about 10,000 miles, by 2020. The centerpiece of the service is a 1,318-kilometer line with 16 kilometers of tunnels that will cut the trip between Beijing and Shanghai to five hours from 10. The Beijing / Shanghai high speed line is set to open 2012.

The Chinese Railway Ministry says that the new system makes economic sense: A two-track bullet train can transport 160 million people a year, compared with 80 million for a four-lane highway.


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