By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Design
China is now the world's leader in high-speed rail. Now the nation has set its sights on the United States and the rest of the world to expand.
Not two weeks after Japan said it would seek to export its high-speed rail expertise to the United States, China has indicated that it is making bids on American projects -- and striking deals to exchange trains and tech for investment.
What makes China's move any different? Size. China leads the world in high-speed rail, by a longshot.
In a new Washington Post report, Keith Richburg details China's near-silent push in the industry. Once the playground of Japan and France, high-speed rail is now a primary target of China's lofty manufacturing ambitions, he writes -- and the country is quite literally on the fast track.
There's a lot of firepower behind the effort. Already, China's trains are the world's fastest, tracks the world's longest and, by 2012 -- four years after its first high-speed train rolled out of the station -- China will have more high-speed rail laid down than the rest of the world combined.
How's that for scale?
According to the report, China's making infrastructure moves the way the U.S. did in the 1950s. One company making deals with them is General Electric, which signed a deal last year (.pdf) to invest in China's rail expansion in exchange for using the nation's trains and technology as leverage in its bid on high-speed rail projects in the U.S.
In that release, GE stated:
More than $13 billion will be spent over the next five years to support higher- and high-speed rail infrastructure development in the United States. Over the next three years, China will invest about $300 billion into its railways infrastructure, expanding its network by more than 20,000 kilometers, including 13,000 kilometers of track designed for high-speed trains capable of traveling up to 220 miles per hour.
GE's goal: be the vendor of choice for domestic high-speed rail.
China's goal: become the top high-speed train supplier to the world.
It's not just size that China has at its disposal; it's also cash. China is offering low-interest financing to be extra competitive, but according to the GE announcement, its deal stipulates that at least 80 percent of locomotive components would be sourced from American suppliers and assembly would take place in the U.S.
Interestingly, the expansion of rail in China has created heated competition between trains and airlines for short-haul flights. Will it do the same in the U.S.?
Images: Bombardier Sifang
May 20, 2010
Are there risks? As long as you have a large number of people, there will always be a risk for terrorism. As long as you breathe, and as long as humanity it imperfect, there will be risks in their engineering. But you always have to weigh risk against reward and figure out if it's worth it. I think that it will be.
goff256, so are you saying you don't disagree with anything I said regarding engineering risks? gary
might do something called "help the economy". The world has a much higher chance of sliding back further into recession than it has to suffer catastrophic terrorist attacks because of this technology.
Look, I'm not saying we can't move ahead. I'm simply stating that ALL future transportation concepts MUST pay attention to the risks. Would you disagree with that observation? Furthermore, it's not a black & white scenario, it's a sliding scale. A bus is probably less of an overall risk than a high speed train (more passengers, higher speed). So all this rhetoric about not bowing to terrorism has no place in an engineering decision. We need to take the world at face value. gary
goff256, Wouldn't you consider automobiles to be a large-scale transportation system? Without a doubt designing our future transportation systems to be terrorism proof is a challenge, but we have no choice. You can't just take an idealistic stand and cross your fingers. gary
You are basically arguing against every large-scale transportation. Why should we allow there to be planes? If there are planes, then the terrorists can take them over. They have highly combustible fuel, which means that they can be used as flying bombs. Holy fuck. Trains could be wrecked with something as simple as removing a section of the railing. How about we stop people from going on trains too? Subways? There could be a cave-in because of terrorism. Let's not use that either. The problem with your equation is that it pretty much only works if you want society to halt all real advancement.
We can't let the TERRORISTS win! THEY are just waiting to bomb and destroy our proposed high-speed railways! We must STOP this progress! It has gone on long enough! To paraphrase an 18th century lady, "man should travel in airplanes as God intended him to!" The highspeed train, like the high speed internet, is an invention of the devil. (And the terrorists) Best it stay in China, Japan and Europe and those other backward heathen nations! Dial-up! As God intended for us: http://fibe.tk
yea keep shipping our manufacturing jobs overseas, just great. now lets use tax payer money to buy them. hopefully GE gets the deal at least, or some other US company. oh and lets turn this around for 1/2 a second, you think china would buy trains or much anything else for that matter from us? i dont, they seem to have a tight grip on there markets from what i read, US has been having trouble breaking into any of their markets where as we cant buy enough of their lead based toys and rest of their crap.
RonDsz, I think the airlines have been in "worry mode" for several years now. They are terribly inefficient and I'm happy to see fewer planes in the sky. Ground transportation is MUCH more efficient. I'm only questioning the safety of the high speed trains. The variables in the equation with respect to the risk of terrorism (or accidents) are speed and the total number of passengers per "vehicle". One or the other variables needs to be kept low. btw, I'm an engineer, but not connected to the transportation industry. gary
airline industry should be worried as faster trains can transport more people in less time and will be cheaper.
goff256, So what's your personal conclusion? Do you feel that land vehicles traveling at aircraft speeds, carrying perhaps thousands of passengers is safe? Or would you be concerned that an otherwise stupid home-grown terrorist might throw a piece of cable across the track? Guys, obviously for various reasons you are not concerned about this sort of scenario. I really hope your right. But I think you're wrong. Regrettably, time will tell. gary
The rolling stock is generally NOT the problem rolling out HS Rail in the US. The problem is in obtaining the right of way for straight-line tracks in a populated corridor. Even if the investment had any hope of being recouped, the NIMBY crowd would delay this for decades.
I'm curious about the energy consumption of these fast trains in comparison to (1) private auto (2) Greyhound-type buses (3) the Amtrak trains we now have and finally (4): What is the energy consumption and carbon dioxide production of these fast trains, per 1000 passenger-miles, as compared to big twin-turboprop communter aircraft (whose speed is probably comparable to high speed trains), or various Boeing and Airbus jetliners, or various regional jets?
The idea of terrorism is to change the way people live, think, and go about their lives due to some external thread. People are terrified of the result that a single misstep could bring, which is exactly what's wanted. By shutting ourselves off to future developments on the idea that it might have a future terrorist problem, we're giving them exactly what they want. Ergo. the terrorists win when you refuse to do something for fear of what might happen someday.
marksmandesign, I don't understand your comment about the terrorists winning. Are you saying that we should take some risks, even extreme ones, just to make a statement? gary
always-a-geek, I don't really understand your argument. Clearly we need to weigh EACH idea for it's vulnerability to terrorism. Those ideas that are most vulnerable may simply not be practical. So when you say "you had better get used to the fact that we live in an age of vulnerability", that's exactly what I'm proposing. "High speed rail is no different than any other public infrastructure concept." Seriously? You really don't see the greater terrorism potential in taking out a high-speed train vs taking out a bus? gary
Oh puh-leeze... Everything and anything that is open access is a target. If you want to eliminate new ideas because they are open to threats, you may as well not change anything in the public sector. And, while you are at it, you may as well shutter all of our electric power facilities, municipal water, busses, trains, expressways, bridges, chemical plants... In other words, unless you want to return to the days of The Waltons, you had better get used to the fact that we live in an age of vulnerability, where events with massive public casualties are both the goal and the satisfaction for the instigators, being rewarded with exactly the public reaction and publicity that they want. High speed rail is no different than any other public infrastructure concept. Maybe better, since I actually know where the rail is laid.
Wouldn't a high speed train carrying hundreds, even thousands of people at high speed at ground level be the PERFECT terrorist target? What am I missing? gary