China has become the country with the fastest development, most complete systematic technologies, strongest assembly capacity, the greatest length of track, highest operational speed and the largest project scale of high-speed railways in the world. High speed rail seems to be providing a 1.0 to 1.5% annual GDP boost to regional economies. China could use low pressure maglev to create a 1 to 1.2 billion person megacity by 2040 and a 1.4 billion person megacity by 2050. A large number of high passenger and freight capacity maglev with 1500-2000 mile per hour speed could connect all of the cities in China by 2050. A UN report discusses the merging of cities into mega-regions and the is the largest megaregion is Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou region in China, home to about 120 million people already. Super high speed rail will enable dense cities to physically connect for more productivity and economic growth. If China proceeds down this path and achieves success there will be high speed rail links to the European high speed rail network, Japans high speed rail network and then connections across to the Americas.
China has put 355 multiple-unit trains into operation, including 234 trains that can reach 250 kilometers per hour and 121 trains that can reach 350 kilometers per hour
China’s high-speed railways are mainly in the three large economic zones, the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei economic zone. Just in 2009, the average local GDP of the three zones had increased by as high as 10 percent, 1.7 percentage points higher than the growth rate of China’s total GDP.
In the same year, the GDP of the three zones accounted for 44 percent of the GDP of China, up three percentage points compared to that of 2008. Experts believe that China’s high-speed railways have become a booster for China’s regional economic integration.
In Jiangsu province, more than 60 percent came from the regions along the Shanghai-Nanjing High-Speed Railway. Investigations show that the Shanghai-Nanjing High-Speed Railway will increase the GDP of the cities along its route by 1 percent annually.
“One-city Effect” pushes the high-speed railway economy
As China possesses a large population and a vast territory, the time and space span between China’s economy and society is huge. Uneven population distribution and economic development in China determines that the production and market consumption need to be connected using a high-speed, long-distance and large-capacity rail transport channel.
Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway to show ‘dumbbell effect’
The track-laying work of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway recently started after a track-laying machine quietly laid a 500-meter-long rail at the Xuzhou East Station. This marked the shift of the engineering construction of the world’s longest high-speed railway with the highest standards from civil engineering to track engineering. It is estimated that the railway will be put into operation by 2012.
The maximum speed of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway is 350 kilometers per hour and can shorten the travel time for a distance of 1,318 kilometers between Beijing and Shanghai to less than four hours. The round-way passenger transportation capacity of the railway will reach 160 million a year.
“We can see on a map that the two ends of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway connect China’s two major economic zones: the Bohai Sea Rim and the Yangtze River Delta economic zones. Such a relationship is just like a dumbbell. The Bohai Sea Rim and the Yangtze River Delta act as the two balls of a dumbbell and the railway acts as its bar.
According to initial research and estimations, upon the completion of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the “dumbbell effect” will lift the GDP growth rates of the regions along the railway by about 19 to 21 percentage points.
Southwest Jiaotong University in China is developing a low pressure underground tubes and maglev train which will travel at 1,000 kilometers per hour (600 mph).
This is double the speed of current maglev trains, which enable a larger one city economic growth effect. Even more advanced vacuum maglev would enables speeds up to 12000 miles per hour. The double speed only costs 10-20% more than regular maglev.
China plans to limit extending the Shanghai maglev line to approximately 200 million yuan per kilometer. $30 million/km. The very low air pressure tunnel is supposed to cost $1.5-2.95 million more per kilometer. So more than doubling the speed adds about 10% to the cost. In a worse case, where China is able to build new maglev for $16.5 million/km and the high end of the tunnel costs occurs then the current estimate would be a 20% incremental costs.
According to Shen Zhiyun, academic member of CAS and CAE, China should target the development of high-speed ground transportation with 600 to 1,000 kilometers per hour which should be in operation between 2020 and 2030.
Each dot is about 5000 people and shows that almost all of china’s population is in the eastern half of the country.
Going to 1500 mph in the 2030 to 2040 timeframe would enable about 90% of Chinas population to be 1 hour apart by low pressure maglev. China would have about 80% urbanization at that time. This would enable a 1 to 1.2 billion person “single city” effect. China’s economy would be in the 50-120 trillion dollar range so a boost of 20% would be worth 10 to 24 trillion dollars.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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