By Mark Halper
Posting in Cities
The world's longest high-speed rail line opens for business, between Beijing and Shanghai. But not without a few technical problems.
Yes, once again China has proven its industrial prowess as its Beijing-to-Shanghai route opened for business on June 30, over a year ahead of schedule and about 3 years after work began.
As The Washington Post reports, the 823-mile line is the world’s longest stretch of high-speed rail, and is more than triple the distance of New York-to-Washington, a route that itself might one day have a high speed link.
“The line runs 90 pairs of trains daily, traveling at either 187 miles/h or 156 miles/h,” the story states. That’s good enough to cut the travel distance between the two Chinese cities in half in the fastest instance to 4 hours and 48 minutes, it says.
China’s 12th 5-year plan, running from 2011 to 2016 calls for 18,750 miles of new lines – not all of it high-speed - at a staggering cost of $432 billion. News agency AFP said the Beijing to Shanghai track cost $33 billion.
Nobody said high-speed rail is cheap, but it could be worth it in terms of alleviating CO2 emissions from passengers who might otherwise travel by car or plane. Of course, the CO2 equation also depends on where the power that drives the train comes from, so don’t forget that China generates 80% of its electricity from coal-fired plants, which are true carbon culprits.
The project has had its share of glitches. China was originally planning to operate a train that would have travelled about 25% faster, but safety concerns caused it slow down the velocity – an episode that cost Minister of Railway Liu Zhijun his job, noted Forbes.
And the shine came off last week, when technical problems forced 3 trains to a halt, Forbes reported. China blamed one of the breakdowns on a thunderstorm that knocked out power, and another on a separate power failure. Sounds like those coal fired plants and the grid are overworked. China blamed the third stoppage on "a problem with tractive transformers on the train."
All in all though, something for the rest of the world to learn from, good and bad.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Jul 21, 2011
Well done! Thank you very much for professional templates and community edition sesli chat sesli sohbet
- A module capacity system that can easily attach/detach train cars depending on need. - This might allow for cargo shipment trains too. - Allow you to load up your own car onto the train.
According to a 6/29 WSJ article ( http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304447804576411673210182348.html ), HSR in China has had corruption and construction problems, and complaints that the average Chinese cannot afford the price of a ticket. Maybe it looks good from over here, but up close in China it's not clear that HSR is a win. A few days after I originally wrote this, two HSR trains in China collided, killing at least 35. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-14262276
Although I have to at least give the author credit for pointing out that China's HSR line isn't as green as many would like to pretend simply for the fact that most of China's electricity comes from unscrubbed coal, he perpetuates the myth that HSR is carbon efficient. It simply is not. First, as opposed to traditional-speed rail, it takes a remarkable amount of energy to push a train to "high speed". Like with automobiles, after a certain point, there is a high degree of diminishing returns the faster you go. Second, most arguments for the efficiency of HSR do not consider the carbon-intensive resources required to build and maintain the system. HSR lines are fine-tuned systems and require a far greater regimen of support and maintenance over traditional rail. In fact, a British Department of Transport study from 2007 (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/researchtech/research/newline/carbonimpact.pdf/) found that when all factors are considered, on a per-seat basis HSR is no more carbon efficient than automobiles! (Inter-city buses won out on efficiency) The more carbon-efficient rail is traditional rail, but then again mostly not in Europe but in Japan. And the only reason that it is so in Japan is because they literally cram people on trains like sardines. (That's hardly a selling point that would go over well in America) So what are the real lessons for the rest of the world? I think one would be to see the recent Chinese tendency to follow the old cold-war Soviet propaganda model of "let's do what the west does, but bigger" for what it is. During the cold war, the Soviets continually felt compelled to build everything the west did, but bigger and faster. The results were usually disastrous, wasteful, or just plain unsustainable. We usually just did stuff better.
...they've got some serious operational issues as well. It just seems inconceivable to me that if the system were to lose contact with a train and could no longer be certain of its location (due to power failure, weather, etc) that any other traffic on the same line would not be shut down until positive contact with all assets on the line could be made. Clearly, their system isn't that well thought out. Not that this should have any bearing on the HSR debate as it applies to America. We'd expect any system here to be designed and built to far better standards that have obviously been used in China. But then again, those standards are not cheap.
The study itself notes that high speed can EASILY break even and surpass the "do nothing" alternative if conventional rail does not already command large market share already, or (by extrapolation) the overall market for travellers will dramatically expand, and that expansion would have otherwise have taken air. For the distances involved (in China and the US), and especially in the US where air and car travel commands such a large percentage of the market, high speed rail can be shown to reduce carbon footprint quite quickly, at relatively low levels of "modal shift" (the studies term for percentage of folks moving from one transport mode to the other). In other words, it is hard for high speed to reduce the carbon footprint if its competition is already efficient. However, if the competition is air travel, then it is easy.
In fact, I'd love you to cite the section of the report that suggests that. I didn't find it. If fact, the study seems to suggest quite the opposite: The attractiveness of rail, in the context of carbon emissions, varies significantly with the type of technology employed on the new line. The greater the amount of carbon emitted in constructing and operating the new line, the greater the modal shift required to produce a net reduction in overall carbon emissions. Basically, HSR will have to beat out air significantly in cost & convenience in order for enough people to use it to make a relative difference. Even then, it still won't be carbon-competitive against conventional rail, buses, or even autos.