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The new arms race: China planning high-speed rail network to Russia, India, Europe

The new arms race: China planning high-speed rail network to Russia, India, Europe

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Forget the space race; the new arms race is over high-speed trains. China plans to build a high-speed rail network that connects Beijing to Vietnam, India, Europe and Russia.

Forget the space race. The new arms race is over high-speed trains.

China is in negotiations to build a high-speed rail network to India and Europe that would make a trip from London to Beijing last just two days.

The network would begin in London and extend to India, Pakistan and Beijing. It could eventually carry passengers from on to Singapore, a trip that would last three days, according to project consultant Wang Mengshu, as reported in the Telegraph (UK).

A second line would extend from Beijing northward, through Russia to Germany, linking with the European railway system.

A third line would extend southward, connecting Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia.

If you don't think two days is very impressive, consider this: London is 5,070 air miles away from Beijing. Singapore? 6,750 miles.

"We are aiming for the trains to run almost as fast as aeroplanes," said Mr Wang. "The best case scenario is that the three networks will be completed in a decade," he added.

According to the Telegraph report, China is in negotiations with 17 nations for the massive project, which would effectively open the Central, East and Southeast Asia to Europe (and vice-versa).

In a way, it's the Silk Road 2.0: the rail lines would allow China to transport raw materials more directly and efficiently.

According to the report, the system wasn't China's idea -- it was the other nations, such as India. But it took Chinese know-how and tech to get it done.

China is in the midst of completing a $735.6 billion, five-year domestic railway expansion project consisting of almost 19,000 miles of new railways.

The nation unveiled the world's fastest train, the Harmony Express, last year. The train has a top speed of almost 250 miles per hour, and will be used between the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou.

The exact routes of the three lines haven't yet been decided, but construction for the southern line has already begun, according to the report.

Here's an interesting bit from the report:

China has offered to bankroll the Burmese line in exchange for the country's rich reserves of lithium, a metal widely used in batteries.

The only rail line that serves the area was built by the French in Vietnam a century ago.

The only issue? Money, of course. But politics plays a part, too: ensuring the use of a common gauge across so many nations' territories has its own hurdles, not to mention visa requirements.

A new Schengen Treaty, anyone? (Shenyang, perhaps?)

Map: The Transport Politic

More high-speed rail coverage on SmartPlanet:

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure