When finished sometime in the first half of the 2020s, tens of billions of dollars would have been spent and passengers will be able to travel between Kunming and Singapore in just 10 hours. A more ambitious, although still prospective, high speed-rail project is one that would link Moscow with Beijing, making it possible to cross the 7,769-mile expanse in one and a half days. Other New Silk Road high-speed rail lines are also being built in Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Eastern Europe, let alone thousand of kilometers being added onto China’s domestic HSR system to link in far western Silk Road hubs.
The speed breakdown for current and potential forms of New Silk Road transportation looks a little something like this:
Truck: 90 km/h
Conventional cargo train: 100 km/h
High-speed cargo train: 250 km/h
High-speed passenger train: 350-450 km/h
Hyperloop: 540-800 km/h
Boeing 787: 954 km/h
Singapore and Malaysia are building the 350km high-speed rail linking Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Targeted to be operational by end-2026, the railway line will cut travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes. They are taking bids for the project now. China will be a bidder.
China has spent an estimated 2.4 trillion yuan (S$492 billion) building 22,000km of high-speed rail lines inside China.
29 of China’s 31 provinces and regions are today connected by bullet trains, and more Chinese are choosing to ride rather than fly. This is because train terminals tend to be located closer to city centres, and, unlike at airports, security screenings and check-ins are much speedier.
China has a HSR project in Indonesia.
Beijing has also secured a high-speed line project from the Thai-Laos border to Bangkok.
China and Japan are in the running to build the 350km Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR line. The tender for that line will be called by the end of the year.
Rail car that maintain temperature for a China to Europe roundtrip
Over the past five years, an entire 40+ line network of direct cargo (non-high speed) trains between China and Europe has emerged, and while the innovativeness of this system is mainly found in the realms of politics and customs protocols rather than technology, this system has inspired a reimagining of the future of rail transport.
Koolen and his Unit 45 team made a diesel electric “smart” reefer container that could maintain a set internal temperature via a thermostat, be remotely controlled, is GPS enabled, and has enhanced security mechanisms that could theoretically make the journey from China to Europe and back again without needing to be refueled. Basically, they created the new camels of the New Silk Road.
A train loaded with Unit 45 climate controlled reefer containers in Khorgos Gateway in February 2017. Image: Wade Shepard.