High speed rail may be a quixotic public works project here in California but for China, it's a cornerstone of the country's transportation infrastructure. Yesterday, Chinese officials expanded that infrastructure by inaugurating the longest such rail line on Earth and announced plans for seven more.
While not nearly as fast as the Tokyo-Nagoya mag-lev line Japan is working on, the high speed line running from, Beijing, the capital city of the People's Republic of China to Guangzhou, a provincial capital 1,428 miles (2,298 kilometers) to the South, is nearly five times as long. What's more, the line's trains reach speeds of 186 MPH (300 KPH) which shaves an astounding 12 hours off the trip. What was once a 20 hour-plus trek, now takes only eight. More than 150 pairs of trains will serve the line every day—darting from one capital city to the other with stops at other provincial capitals—Shijiazhuang, Wuhan and Changsha—along the way.
This is just one of eight new HSR lines China hopes to construct by 2020—four North-South and four East-West—to help ferry goods and people across the country's vast territories without having to rely on airlines or freeways. Instead, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) has upgraded conventional lines to accommodate high speed trains, built designated passenger lines, and even dabbled in mag-lev technology. In all, China operates the longest HSR network in the world, maintaining more than 5,800 miles (9,300 km) of rail. The MOR is working to more than double that figure to 11,184 miles (18,000 km) by 2015, according to the Xinhua News Agency, as part of the country's modernization efforts.