On June 30, 2011, China’s high-speed rail Beijing-Shanghai line started at 3:00pm. The total length of the line is 1,318 kilometers (819 miles). It took the first train 4 hours 48 minutes to arrive at its destination.
China’s Railroad Department indicates that the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line will carry trains of two speed levels: 300 km/hr (186 miles/hour) and 250 km/hr (155 miles/hour). This line is to operate 90 pairs of trains daily.
In addition to the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line, China has also opened the Wunhan-Guangdong high-speed line, Shanghai-Ningxia high-speed line, and Zhengzhou-Xi’An high-speed line, these lines also operates trains at the speed levels of 300 km/hr (186 miles/hour) and 250 km/hr (155 miles/hour).
The Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail is of particular important as it connects the two most important cities of China. The line crosses four provinces in the east coast of China and has the longest mileage of high-speed rails.
The area that the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line covers has high population density, accounting for 25% of the country’s total population. Meanwhile the region is comparatively more affluent, producing 40% of the country’s total GDP. There are also many tourist attractions in the area. The high-speed line brings great convenience for the enterprises in the surrounding area to expand and transport their goods and services. Further, it will expedite the flows of human, capital, and other resources. Chinese government is confident that the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail will make a significant positive impact on the country’s economy.
The Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line is the most expensive construction project of China to date. Total investment is nearly ¥221 billion RMB Yuan ($34 billion US dollars). It took 3 years to build. However, since the economy of the region the line serves is one of the most robust in China, the high demand for area transportation would hopefully lead to sufficient returns on the considerable investment.
On the other hand, in the US the high-speed rail development seems to have encountered difficulties. In 1869, the US Pacific Railway’s transcontinental line connected both coasts and had been considered a miracle in the world industrial history. However, today the nation has only one high-speed line – the Boston to Washington D.C. line on the east coast.
Although in other countries the high-speed railway consumes less energy per capita and has lower operating costs in comparison to cars and airplanes, in the United States the highway system is the main method of transportation. Many American rail services are old and suffer losses. To build high-speed lines the rails and equipments need significant improvement and replacement, requiring huge investments. As there are tremendous conflicts and objections from various aspects, the U.S. high-speed rail development appears to be restricted at the moment.