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China Begins To Extend High Speed Rail Across Asia

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the spreading-out dept.

China 387

MikeChino writes "Last year we learned that China planned to expand its high-speed rail network all the way to Europe and now the nation has launched the first step of the project with plans to extend tracks into northern Laos. The nation has also set goals of expanding the high-speed rail line into Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore."

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China to lose even more money on high-speed rail? (4, Insightful)

freefrag (728150) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456738)

Their existing high speed rail lines are racking up serious debt. This plan to expand it is difficult to believe.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36456814)

Funny, you could say the same thing about America and its wars...

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456840)

You could say the same about highways or airports.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (0)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457732)

Except that people use the roads and airports in the US and other countries.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2011/02/high-speed_rail_china [economist.com]
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703983104576262330447308782.html [wsj.com]

"Tickets for high-speed trains can be twice as expensive as the highest-class tickets on regular-speed trains. A high-speed rail ticket between eastern China's Wuhan and Guangzhou, for example, costs 469 yuan, or about $70. That is prohibitively expensive for many Chinese, and has resulted in at least some trains operating almost empty, industry experts say."

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456872)

Show me how your car makes a profit.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36457018)

I use my car to get to my place of employment. Along with the purchase price there is the cost of gas and license fees, and tolls.
The salary I get from my job is more than the all these costs.
Therefore my car makes a profit.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (2)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457126)

Do you simply not get what's wrong with that analogy? Or are you trying to be funny?

People choose cars over railways because they see a better cost/benefit tradeoff. That's why railways lose many and car manufacturers make money. One can make the argument that personal car use doesn't properly account for all the externalities. You're welcome to make that argument.

But China's problem isn't lack of good public transportation, it's having too many people. If China had 100M people instead of 1000M, all of those people having a car wouldn't be a problem. Ditto for the US.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457136)

People choose cars over railways because they see a better cost/benefit tradeoff. That's why railways lose many and car manufacturers make money.

Automakers bought profitable bus and rail lines and shut them down to get us where we are today. People did NOT choose cars, they chose trains, and then the trains went away.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457514)

A citation for that claim would be nice.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457590)

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457790)

From your own link

"The lack of hard information about what occurred has led to intrigue, uncertainty, inaccuracy and conspiracy theories."

And the whole section - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_streetcar_scandal#Myths_and_mysteries [wikipedia.org] - where it talks about how many of the lines were already in financial distress before the automakers showed up.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457770)

Automakers didn't shut down profitable bus and rail lines where I live.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (2)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457362)

Some people choose cars because of a cost/benefit analysis, but that assumes there is a viable choice. Living in an East Coast city means I have the choice to own a car and I choose not to. If I lived in Dallas, I wouldn't have a real choice, and would need a car to survive. A better comparison is railways and the Highway Trust Fund, as both are responsible for maintenance of their respective transportation networks and both lose money: the Trust Fund doesn't earn enough in gas taxes (indirect user fees) to break even and the railways don't earn enough in ticket sales (direct user fees) to turn a profit. Car manufacturers make money because most customers live in places like Dallas, those customers don't grasp the full cost of ownership to their pocketbook, and because they're buying the product of a car rather than the service of transporation.

Anyway, high-speed rail in China is a glamor project, but it's not going to last terribly well: it's built somewhat poorly and somewhat hastily, which will mean an expensive maintenance budget. As long as their economy is roaring they'll be fine, but once it levels off they're going to feel the crunch.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457562)

The U.S. transcontinental railroads were built terribly poorly. That's how they were able to lay 10 miles of rail in one day. The assumption was that once there was an operating railroad, that it would be very much less expensive to lay good track. It worked, we still have an intercontinental railroad through the same route that was originally laid.

It might be true that large portions of the China route are similarly without good roads.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457474)

Railroad car and locomotive makers make money too. Indeed, they make a larger margin than automobile manufacturers.

Tell me, again, how does your car make money for you, its owner?

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457516)

It gets me to work.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457648)

It gets me to work.

That's an expense. If you were a company, your car would be a cost-center, not a profit center. As would be what you pay for parking, work clothes, education, child-care while you are working, etc. The IRS will allow you to write off some of these expenses. Your labor for the company would be a profit center.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457476)

There is no inherent cost/benefit to a car over a train. If the entire population used trains instead of cars, the cost benefit ratio would easily swing the other way.

Its called selfish vs group ethics. People use cars because its convenient to themselves, rather than public transit in its various forms which are better for everyone as a whole.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1, Insightful)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457552)

If I used public transportation, I would have to walk 1 mile to the nearest stop, take a bus to the nearest train (about 45 minutes), then take the train to the city (about 30 if I catch it at the right time), take the subway, then walk another couple of blocks. So I'm going to spend 2-2.5 hours each way every day as opposed to driving for 40 minutes just to make everyone else happy?

No.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457710)

If you and people like you supported having good public transportation in your community, and the auto companies allowed you to have good public transportation, you would not be taking 2.5 hours each way.

Where I live, a train is often the fastest and most reliable option.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (4, Interesting)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457746)

As the GP I agree completely. For example, Ottawa, my nation's capital, has beautiful dedicated transit lanes. The buses speed past stopped traffic on the highways on their own private roadways, bringing public transit users to and from major stations with speed and efficiency. Last I checked, NYC is also an excellent example of a city that understands the need for at least decent public transit.

Unfortunately, too many people look at transit as a private for-profit opportunity, instead of a public good.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457756)

I live somewhere where walking to work isn't an option for 6 months of the year and my job has requirements that a bicycle won't meet, so my car makes me more money than I spend on fuel, parts and depreciation.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (4, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456918)

Some things aren't economic on a small scale but only become so on a large scale. Rail is something you have to roll out on a large scale, the larger the better. The countries they plan to move into don't have the greatest road systems in the world, giving the Chinese an advantage. Plus, rail is much less polluting and requires less fossil fuel, meeting international obligations (this matters to the Chinese government only because it's PR they can use against other nations) and freeing them from oil dependencies in nations potentially hostile to them.

In the event of conflict in the region, the Chinese will have greater mobility and reduced troop movement times, which basically means that they'll be able to dominate the region in a way America is no longer capable of within the Americas.

From the Chinese perspective, it's cheaper to build rail than to build a fleet of giant troop transport planes and it has none of the PR damage involved in the latter.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

Balthisar (649688) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457278)

Of course is single bomb can be devastating enough to make an entire train route useless, whereas airplanes can fly pretty much anywhere.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457674)

Of course is single bomb can be devastating enough to make an entire train route useless

... for the day or two it takes to repair. And for the effort, the terrorists get terror-inspiring headlines like "train delayed; businessmen must reschedule meeting!"

Horrors.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (3, Funny)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457718)

You weren't alive 10 years ago, were you :-)

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

hsjserver (1826682) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457348)

You're mistaken in thinking any future conflict with a nuclear armed nation would take place inside that nation's borders.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (2)

hsjserver (1826682) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456924)

This has serious long term benefits to their state. For one, all that construction and maintenance will further add to their middle class and domestic consumption, not to mention tourism and trade from Europe. Consider what such access has done for Europeans when they opened their borders to each other and it makes perfect sense for the Chines to do the same. Plus, they're control freaks and I'm sure see incredible value in recording every word on one of their trams. True that it's expensive now, and they won't have a return on it for a long time, but it's nice to see that at least one country is forward looking in terms of their infrastructure, especially compared to the austerity and oil jerks in the US.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1, Informative)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456964)

Their existing high speed rail lines are racking up serious debt. This plan to expand it is difficult to believe.

I was going to bring up the same point. I believe that the only profitable HSR line in the world is Paris-Lyon. So these lines are really much more expensive than they appear when sold to the taxpayers of the country.

I really hope that this idea doesn't spread to the USA in its present form. As Florida pointed out recently, even though the government was going to kick in a couple billion to get the thing built, Florida was going to be on the hook forever afterwards supporting it.

Until they can build a line that makes a profit AND gives me a reason to want to ride it in preference to other transportation alternatives, we shouldn't be building them at all. And artifically raising the price of gasoline to $10/gal is NOT a valid reason. That's just screwing us over because some Liberal Progressive politicians "feel" we should be in trains instead of cars.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (5, Informative)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457116)

I believe that the only profitable HSR line in the world is Paris-Lyon.

There are two [miller-mccune.com] HSR lines that have paid off all their construction costs, Paris-Lyon and Tokyo-Osaka.

Taiwan's [focustaiwan.tw] is the only HSR line in the world right now that is falling behind on the loan payment, but it still covers all of its operating costs through fares. Every other HSR line in the world is making positive progress toward paying off the construction costs.

So what this all boils down to is, what is your definition of "profitable"? I've given three possible definitions from which you may choose.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (3, Insightful)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457118)

That's fantastic! Hey, let's get rid of all profit-less things like fire departments and freeways too!

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36457400)

Most fire departments in the US are volunteer. And the Interstate system was built to move troops and equipment quickly. Like Germany's Autobahn.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457240)

Well Deutsche Bahn Fernverkehr (the long distance branch of the German railway system) is turning a profit [wikimedia.org] . (In 2002 they introduced an innovative new pricing system, but they recovered from that 2.5 years later...)

They are running their third generation HSR now (ICE 3) and have just placed orders for 300 IC X trains.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457752)

Why does it have to make a profit? Other transportation modalities, like your personal automobile, are not required to operate at a profit. The police don't make a profit for the community. Some things are infrastructure, and are costs rather than profits.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36456972)

Not as much as the US government is losing on "Cyber crime". Hellooooo CIAAAA - I recommend you guys switch to openbsd. If you can tolerate Theo, it's probably just right for you.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

diegocg (1680514) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457080)

Sigh. Of course high speed rail is expensive. So were today's "normal speed" rail lines in the past. China's rail network is really crappy or non existent, so when they decided to improve their rail network, they invested in the latest rail technology - high speed rail. In the case of China, investing in "normal speed rail" (technology from several decades ago) is a waste of time and money. USA and other developed countries have a great "normal speed" rail system, so they don't need to waste huge amounts of money in high speed rail. This is the main reason why China has the largest high speed rail network.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457402)

The US rail network is designed around low speed freight. Passengers, however, usually demand to be ferried around at speeds faster than 25 mph.

Why the big long trains? (1)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457132)

I never understood why they build high speed "mag-lev" rail with huge cars and long long trains. They have to fill all those cars, with tons of people all looking to go the same place at the same time.
 
Mag-lev trains get very little benefit from being big and long. Small individually switched cars like this make much more sense to me: http://www.megarail.com/pr/library/2002/mar/20maglev/ [megarail.com]

Re:Why the big long trains? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457484)

There's no benefit to smaller trains; same energy per passenger required, and more rail switching nightmares (keeping trains far enough away from each other on a line that there won't be collisions or conflicts).

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

voidness (1900074) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457216)

The measurement scale is different. If you count the total social benefits, like local development, job, real estate price, tourist, factory, energy and time saving. They have a big win! It's infrastructure project. you can't simply calculate the profitability of itself.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (2)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457294)

It's straining their bond market to pay for it. Apparently they think the investment is worth it.

Lucky we have all the answers here, otherwise I'd wonder what they knew that we didn't.

Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (1)

CLaRGe (2267700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457754)

Their existing high speed rail lines are racking up serious debt. This plan to expand it is difficult to believe.

Believe it:

According to Zhao Jian, a researcher at Beijing Jiaotong University, “the debt had at least reached 2 trillion yuan by now, and the interests of those debts have grown too large for the government to afford.” http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2011/02/18/will-massive-debt-derail-chinas-high-speed-trains/?KEYWORDS=china+high+speed+train [wsj.com]

China can't afford to stop building (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457802)

because then their house of cards economy comes down harder than anything Japan or the US ever could imagine experiencing. I read an economist story basically stating they just continue to do it because they feel they have too. They don't have the social services in place to handle large number of unemployed city dwellers. In fact there is a definite possibility of serious social strife when it hits the fan there.

too bad this country can't do the same (4, Insightful)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456740)

It pains me to read where China is doing this and that, while everyone in USA talks about how great we once were. Although there are articles discussing woes of some of the Chinese high speed rail systems but systems here in USA are being torpedoed for one reason or another (i.e. Calif highspeed rail project).

This talk of high speed rail is too expensive, doesn't go everywhere, etc. Dammit you gotta start someplace and somewhere. If you don't maintain and update country's commerce then it will choke into a third world country.

well with slave labor and lack of worker safety (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456868)

well with slave labor and lack of worker safety is easy to built stuff and kick backs can get you alot as well.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (2, Informative)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456962)

Commerce is maintained by FREIGHT service, for which current rail is more than adequate.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

chemindefer (707238) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457074)

If the current rails are adequate, why do I know of a lot of improvement and expansion projects in the US? And if those are happening, with Federal money helping, why can't passenger service be included in the plan? Especially since Federal money pays for lots of road repair for freight trucks, which do damage at a 55,000/1 ratio versus cars?

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457572)

The Federal money to which you refer is paid BY the truck operators, whose fuel purchases among other things are heavily taxed.

"why do I know of a lot of improvement and expansion projects in the US?"

Citation needed.

Rail can never have the granular service provided by trucking, so all rail freight except bulk cargo is essentially INTERMODAL.

why it'll never happen in the USA... (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456966)

Because GM [wikimedia.org] has vested interest to see that it fails, again.

Re:why it'll never happen in the USA... (1)

diegocg (1680514) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457208)

The real reason IMO is that USA probably doesn't need to make big investments in high speed. USA is really huge, so the natural choice for transporting passengers are airlines (and once your airlines are optimized for that, it becomes a good choice even for not-so-long trips). For goods, the best/only practical choice is rail (and the USA rail system is really good at that), and in these cases high speed doesn't matter that much. So except for the places where population density is high, high speed in USA doesn't seems that attractive.

Re:why it'll never happen in the USA... (2)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457482)

Cars are not as efficient as short-haul aircraft, which in turn are not as efficient as short-haul HSR. We're huge, yes, but it's a relatively short drive from one city to the next throughout most of the country. 6 hours SF-LA; 4 hours St. Louis-Chicago; 6 hours Raleigh-Washington; 3 hours Seattle-Vancouver. If we want to maximize efficiency in our economy, maximizing it in transportation seems like a winning place to look.

Actually, the I-5 corridor from San Diego to Vancouver is a good example of why density along the whole line isn't as important as the integration of the local economies. Along that line are a number of population centers with a lot of space in between. Overall, the density is not terribly high, but there is a lot of traffic. Unlike some places in the West, I never once have been the only car on the road. Far from it, a drive from San Francisco to LA on I-5 is dense with cars and trucks despite the fact that it's mostly farms and low-density "cities". Points north have less traffic, but it's still substantial. If the roads are packed in the middle of nowhere, there is demand for transportation between where they're coming from and where they're going. Route density doesn't matter; it's the endpoints that do.

Re:why it'll never happen in the USA... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36457546)

You do realize that China is bigger than US (landmass wise). Oh sorry you are an American .. USA, USA, #1 ... rah rah!!

Re:why it'll never happen in the USA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36457604)

The US is huge, but so is China. They are almost exactly the same hugeness.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

hsjserver (1826682) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457002)

I wish Oregon, Washington, California could get together and fund high speed rail from Seattle, down the I-5 corridor, to San Diego just to prove to the rest of the country how awesome modern public transportation could be in the US.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

Dayze!Confused (717774) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457102)

Yeah, they could use all that dam power which they have to just waste right now because there isn't enough demand for all the hydro or wind energy that we're creating.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457274)

Citation. They aren't wasting any because of lack of demand. Any overage we have gets sold out of state to keep our rates lower. WA state has been idling capacity recently, but it's not for lack of demand, it's because the grid can't handle all the excess power from the dams and it's not cost effective to maintain that amount of capacity for such rare overages.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

Dayze!Confused (717774) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457656)

There's an article here [oregonlive.com] that talks about it a little bit.
You both say it's not because of lack of demand and the grid can't handle the excess power. Excess power would be power not in demand right? The problem is too much snow melting, meaning too much water, meaning the dam's turbines are spinning too much and creating too much electricity.

During off-peak hours this spring, the dams have been generating more power than customers in the region need.

This would be lack of demand. Whether it comes from surges due to snow melt off or people using less electricity it is still excess and not in demand.
The article also states that BPA refuses to pay negative prices to have California generators shut down and purchase the excess energy.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457510)

Portland-SF wouldn't get much action, unfortunately, as it's just a bit outside the optimal range and there isn't a good in-between city to make it worthwhile. But, if you're building HSR along that stretch, it should extend from Vancouver to Tijuana, as those border cities are highly integrated with the American cities on the other side.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457512)

It wouldn't be awesome because West Coast cities have 3rd rate public transit within the cities, and therefore do not offer any real value over flying.
I wish people would stop worrying about high speed rail from San Francisco to Bakersfield and instead focus on fixing the crap that is BART, Caltrain, and Muni. That would have much more of a real impact given finite resources.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457076)

The cities around Charleston decided against building a light rail network between them because they all wanted total control and didn't want to pay anything. That attitude is common, I have found.

The US was great, some time in the 1950s, but frankly got eclipsed pretty quickly by other nations in just about every field. The US has remained a superpower on aggregate, because others specialized more, but this has been at the price of developing quickly at relatively little. Spread waaaay too thin.

Unemployment is high enough that you could replace the entire rail system of the US with the kind of tracks needed for high-speed rail within weeks, if not days, of the necessary track being produced because it's absurdly parallel. Replacing one piece of track has no dependencies on the state of any other piece of track, so there is no serialization and no blocking involved.

Rail too limited to get everywhere? Hmmm, seems to me there's plenty of trains that can carry cars. If you can travel between point A and point B faster than the cars could on their own, then drive the much shorter distances either end, everyone wins. You get total freedom AND get to sit back for most of the journey.

It won't happen because those antagonistic don't care about such stuff. If "freedom" was really a part of the equation, what could be freer than going anywhere you like in the country in a third the time, without the stress, at lower cost, with greatly reduced risk of accidents, far less wear-and-tear on your vehicle and no danger of a speeding ticket, all by having the middle bit of the journey done by someone else?

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

Balthisar (649688) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457308)

That's what planes are for. They're superior in every respect, with the possible exception of energy use per passenger mile. It's not trains versus cars; it's trains versus airplanes.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457380)

That's what planes are for. They're superior in every respect, with the possible exception of energy use per passenger mile. It's not trains versus cars; it's trains versus airplanes.

Also the groping. There's a noted lack of it on trains (outside the private "sleeper" cars of course).

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457658)

They have planes that carry cars? Cool.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457612)

Unemployment is high enough that you could replace the entire rail system of the US with the kind of tracks needed for high-speed rail within weeks, if not days, of the necessary track being produced because it's absurdly parallel.

The problem isn't lack of warm bodies or spare track laying about. The problem is one of lacking spare *skilled* bodies, and lacking the specialized equipment tracklaying requires. That's assuming that the existing railbed is capable of supporting high speed rail (it isn't) and the existing track alignments are also so capable (they aren't) and the existing control network is up to handling the traffic (it isn't)....
 
Nor, in many places, is it 'absurdly parallel'. The LA basin is connected to the rest of the US on just one pair of tracks. Most of the West is connected to the rest of the US on just a handful of tracks and there isn't sufficient North-South capacity to significantly route around them.
 
On top of which, where is the displaced slow cargo traffic going to go once you start running high speed passenger trains on those rails? (Sorry, you aren't running a million pound container train at high speeds - at the first curve it's going to come off of the rails and scatter itself across the landscape.)
 
tl;dr version: There's a reason why everyone building high speed rails builds new tracks for them. You haven't the foggiest version as to what the difficulties are.
 

Rail too limited to get everywhere? Hmmm, seems to me there's plenty of trains that can carry cars. If you can travel between point A and point B faster than the cars could on their own, then drive the much shorter distances either end, everyone wins. You get total freedom AND get to sit back for most of the journey.

Someone familiar with the railroad industry and it's history will tell you... this has been tried. Multiple times. It doesn't work.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457616)

"Unemployment is high enough that you could replace the entire rail system of the US with the kind of tracks needed for high-speed rail within weeks, if not days, of the necessary track being produced because it's absurdly parallel"

Not a labor-intensive job, but a SPECIALIST job requiring expensive specialist equipment. Roadbeds etc need upgrading too. A bunch of unemployed people doesn't translate into "a bunch of fit (rail work is akin to being an ironworker), skilled work crews" overnight.

I feel the rail love, but some of the advocacy is blind to the realities of construction.

Re:too bad this country can't do the same (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457738)

But can you imagine the uproar that a work program like that would cause? Forgetting all of the logistics, 20 million people regrading, rerailing, and installing catenary (or mag lines) would be a project that would exceed Hoover Dam. Heck, being out of work right now, I'd do it (I'm a fan of railroads). Like you said, that kind of parallelism would see current rail lines fixed (to be able to handle high speed) and new lines popping up rather quickly.
Too bad we're spending our money on wars, bailing out bank CEOs, whatever is fun at the moment.

no strip search for high speed rail! (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457350)

I forgot to mention in my earlier post is don't have to deal with search and inspection when getting on the train unlike airplanes.

Re:no strip search for high speed rail! (1)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457528)

I bet that would change as soon as trains were popular.

First (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36456744)

Post

Ship in the babes! (1, Funny)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456758)

This high-speed rail will make it easier to import all the hot foreign brides that China will need to deal with their sex ratio imbalance. :)

export the troops! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36456904)

with the high speed rail in place, it would be easier to send out shock troops to help the client states put down rebellions.

Re:Ship in the babes! (1)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457112)

mister_playboy says it..... It must be true.

Re:Ship in the babes! (3, Funny)

makubesu (1910402) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457320)

We need to build one of these to the United States! We cannot allow a hot foreign bride gap!

Bad day on slashdot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36456796)

Yes, but will it be made out of human feces???

Sorry, I can't get over that one....

Re:Bad day on slashdot (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457052)

Yes, but will it be made out of human feces???

Sorry, I can't get over that one....

Please try a little harder.

Laos (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456834)

Hank Hill: So are you Chinese or Japanese?
Minh Souphanousinphone: No, we are Laotian.
Bill Dauterive: The ocean? What ocean?
Kahn Souphanousinphone: From Laos, stupid! It's a landlocked country in South East Asia between Vietnam and Thailand, population approximately 4.7 million!

Hank ponders this for a few seconds.

Hank Hill: So are you Chinese or Japanese?
Kahn Souphanousinphone: D'oh!

Gee China is so awesome.... (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456844)

I wish we could be like them and pay our workers shit and spew waste all over our air and in our water like we used to like China is doing today....

Re:Gee China is so awesome.... (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456920)

I think the theory is that they will assert their own rights and push for democracy and western-style social norms if they become bourgeoisie. But if this ends up not working in the middle-east, and those folks put Islamic dictatorships in place, that's going to kill the theory IMO. But I think already there is no going back for the West. Poor us.

Re:Gee China is so awesome.... (1)

Snarky McButtface (1542357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456928)

Same here. I miss the flipper babies.

And yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36456902)

Linux *still* sucks.

Greater SE Asian Coprosperity sphere, anyone ? (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456916)

am i the only one who knows that the national hero of hte Vietnamese is the general who liberated the vietnamese from the chinese like a 1,000 years ago ? Am I the only one who knows that the chinese have been trying to subjugate the koreans, japanese, etc for most of their history ?

Re:Greater SE Asian Coprosperity sphere, anyone ? (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457070)

Funny you should mention that...considering it was Japan that beat the bejeesus out of China in 1894-5, fought Russia in 1904-5 and forcefully annexed Korea in 1910.

And don't forget the Mongols!

Re:Greater SE Asian Coprosperity sphere, anyone ? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457520)

That's like mentioning the invasion of France by England without bringing up the counter-events.

Both sides have been attacking each other forever, its hard to call either the instigator. 1895 happens to be stupidly modern compared to when these conflicts likely began.

Logistics (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456950)

It's too bad this is a capital project - they can't save money by outsourcing the work to offshore corporations the way American companies do...

Re:Logistics (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457702)

They needed new jobs for the suicidal workers who've been making iphones all this time.

Re:Logistics (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457782)

Why not, we (the US) use our illegal immigrant friends for all types of construction work. Just so happens that cheap labor is cheaper within China.

No worries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36456976)

Don't worry, China will just buy more of our debt to give us the cash we need to subsidize the rail line for them. See, problem solved.

Re:No worries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36457142)

What country do you mean by "we"? The US? a country in Europe? Greece has a lot of debt now.. You said "No worries", that's Aussie slang, isn't it? Why would an Australian citizen of Laos subsidize a high speed rail line from China with money paid from the debt of US and a European country such as Greece?

That does not make sense! Why am I talking about this? It doesn't make sense! If China is expanding it's rail line, you must acquit.

naming (0)

Georules (655379) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457032)

[racism]I wonder if they'll call it the orient express?[/racism]

Roads, too. (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457124)

There's more than high speed rail going on. China is building an inter-provincial expressway system, too. The interior provinces aren't sharing in the prosperity of the coastal ones. Better roads and better freight rail will help. Historically, China discouraged inter-provincial trade, and each province was expected to be self-sufficient. That's still to some extent true, and there's some internal friction over eliminating internal trade restrictions. They won't survive a really good highway system.

The history of the US Interstate Highway System isn't quite applicable, though. Every state has at least one interstate highway, and most have at least two. That's a consequence of how Congress is set up. China's transportation system is thin in the western portion of the country.

Re:Roads, too. (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457570)

The interior provinces aren't sharing in the prosperity of the coastal ones.

A Chinese coworker gave an example of how transport has been a factor in that. In Beijing they eat kiwifruit imported from New Zealand - that fruit that used to be called "Chinese gooseberry". It's easier to ship it a fair way around the world than truck it in from the countryside.

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36457196)

Maybe they use the interest from all the money they lend to support these expensive projects, that would be good government right there. We should switch to communism.

Rail is great. For moving tanks. (1)

jet_silver (27654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457220)

It's war infrastructure pure and simple. It's analogous to the Duomo in Siena. Those big, wide boulevards? Meant for crushing civil insurrection with cavalry. China has roads strong enough to accept tanks already, to Nepal and Laos, but rail moves things so much faster.

Re:Rail is great. For moving tanks. (1)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457346)

Who cares if they build war infrastructure on-land. It'll only be real trouble if they start building a decent navy, like start building aircraft carriers, oh wait! ...

Turn right at Myanmar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36457262)

If the Chinese think that "northern Laos" is a step towards a rail network stretching from China to Europe... ... I think they might have issues with their satnav.

China is changing the world (5, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36457540)

China's highspeed rail is great. Not as great as the Japanese bullet train, the attendants are not nearly as hot and the snack cart only has the usual spicy chicken feet and instant Nescafe. But you can get a ticket for not much more than a bus, it's much faster, there's no traffic, and even the second class seats are comfortable. The first time I saw a Chinese hexie hao pull into the station, I immediately thought, "Ah, it's a shinkansen!" Indeed, the trains in my area are license-built copies of the Kawasaki Heavy Industries E2-1000 Series Shinkansen. I always liked taking the train in China, but the main problem was that the bus was always more frequent and sometimes you get some old stinky train full of redneck farmers if you don't know what to watch for when buying your tickets. With the new highspeed rail, the choice is easy.

Who cares if it loses money? That's not the point. The Chinese are loaded with cash right now. The point is to make China, and the world, a smaller place. There's a city south of here that I like to visit. However, the bus trip was 3 1/2 hours of bumpy highways (they never connect the road to abutments correctly so you always get two lurches going over every bridge)...IF there was no traffic or wrecks on the road. I never got down there as often as I liked, and my reluctance was purely due to the unpleasant journey. Now, it's 90 minutes of comfort. The last time I returned from there, I discovered that there are express trains that only take 65 minutes for the trip. Think about it: this city to the south used to be "far". Now, it is "near". I can go there in the morning and be back in the evening. A shopping trip isn't out of the question. Business is easier to conduct. Commuting to work from smaller cities outside is now an option. How's that for change the world, eh?

The black cloud in all of this is construction quality. The head of China's highspeed rail was fired, and either him or someone else highranking said he would under no circumstances ride the train himself. Oh well, I suppose I'll play the lottery on that one, and hope it isn't my train that derails at 161mph.

Connecting the rest of Asia to China's highspeed network will be pricey, but when it's finished Chinese business and influence will spread. That's the whole idea, isn't it? Invest now, pay off later. I tell you, it's weird living under a government that actually acts in its own national interest, unlike my own government.

mobility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36457558)

Additional strategic mobility for troops too. Helmuth von Moltke would be proud.

It's the reason of cheap manufacturing cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36457662)

IMO it's the railway system that actually makes the cost of production is a lot cheaper in China. Well it's true that the labor wage is insanely cheaper than the first world countries, but there is another reason why corporations want to place their manufacturing in China. In China as almost every third world countries with abundant resources and cheap wages, you need to put some money under the table, or bribing, in order to get your business protected, or to ease the bearucracy of getting permit. Other third world countries with the same wage level and government corruption cannot compete with the low cost of China's manufacturing because of this.

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