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China's Yearly Budget For High-Speed Rail: $100 Billion

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the just-your-opinion-man dept.

China 230

An anonymous reader writes "For all of those wondering about China's massive high speed rail network, it costs some serious cash. Running high speed lines across the nation is expensive — to the tune of $100 billion dollars a year. This covers the cost to maintain the network, build it, and pay all of the staff. The problem is, corruption has reared its ugly head. The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result. There is also the problem that many of Chinese poor make so little money they can't afford to ride it. The sad fact is that so much money is being spent, no one can even keep count."

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Conservative Hit-piece (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712213)

Yeah, because high-speed rail is only for Communists, like in California, and costs too much. That's why its bad. Keep pimpin' those Escalades, American pigs.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Conservative Hit-piece (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712239)

-- Ethanol-fueled

Yer such a nigger i cant believe it

Re:Conservative Hit-piece (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41712895)

I see a bunch of name-calling here. What I don't see is a sane reason to build high speed rail.

As to California, they've already killed their HSR attempt with environmental regulation red tape. The project needs federal funds to work and those federal funds are conditional on California starting the project soon. But that just isn't going to happen due to the several year delay for preparing reports on the environmental impact of the project.

I figure the current leaders picked a face-saving way to back out without appearing to.

Re:Conservative Hit-piece (3, Interesting)

slashdyke (873156) | about 2 years ago | (#41713273)

I can't comment about California, but the Chineese goal is quite good. HSR to connect South East Asia to the Middle East and Europe. There is lots of trade between those regions, that right now goes over the sea. Slow and limited. HSR that could traverse the continents in 2 ro 3 days, would be great for trade, and much more economical. The goal is a lofty one. How it is being carried out may be a different situation.

So.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712215)

... how bout them chinks?

Frosty Piss Biatch!

Don't worry, the fanbois here won't care (-1, Flamebait)

Scareduck (177470) | about 2 years ago | (#41712217)

China! High speed rail! Hurp! Derp!

Endless waste and government corruption in China?! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712227)

Wait a second, I thought Obama was President of the US, not China!

Re:Endless waste and government corruption in Chin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712271)

No, you are right. China is not the president of the US... not yet, but soon!

Next we welcome China, Prime Minister of Canada (1)

slashdyke (873156) | about 2 years ago | (#41713283)

China may not be the president of the US, but the Prime minister of Canada is currently setting up special trade deals with China, so that Chineese corporations will have more legal clout in Canada than our provinces and municipalities. If they say our eco-friendly, decomcratically chosen laws are harming their revenues and profits, they can sue us, and at that is is not even public. The new laws state that it has to be kept from the people.

Re:Endless waste and government corruption in Chin (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712279)

ignintt romney lover thinks the werld was envinted in 6 days and that his unkel wuznt a chimp. hez rite, his uncle wuz pond scum

stoopid littel shit gonna get butfukked by obamas hit squod funnny shit cuz all he wants is to suk romney dick fukking iornic aint it

WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712281)

Where's the scandal?!

$100B divided by 2 million employees equals $50,000 per employee -- high for China, maybe, but matches the MEDIAN male income in the U.S.

Given that the $100B actually includes much more than employee salary, like, uh, the material costs of BUILDING the railroad, and trains, and stations, etc, the figure seems rather like a bargain.

"The problem is, corruption has reared its ugly head." : When does that not happen to some extent?

"The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result." : This happens everywhere.

"There is also the problem that many of Chinese poor make so little money they can't afford to ride it." : Maybe China is planning for the future, maybe?! You know, like when their middle class is comparable in size to that in other developed nations?

"The sad fact is that so much money is being spent, no one can even keep count." : Then what is the "$100 Billion" figure?! Sheesh! Make up your mind!

the material suppliers are also likely taking ther (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#41712321)

the material suppliers are also likely taking there cut as well.

also you need to count up keep and running costs in that 100B

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712343)

I dunno, seems like a successful troll to me, which is what Trolldot is about these days.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712347)

This New Yorker article [newyorker.com] might add to the context of corruption and where the money is going.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (3, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#41713393)

BOSS RAIL
The disaster that exposed the underside of the boom.
BY EVAN OSNOS
OCTOBER 22, 2012

Wow, an article that was posted two days in the future! Slashdot has really come a long way from posting old news...

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712357)

The median income for the average US male is only about 42000.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (5, Informative)

curunir (98273) | about 2 years ago | (#41712383)

Where's the scandal?!

$100B divided by 2 million employees equals $50,000 per employee -- high for China, maybe, but matches the MEDIAN male income in the U.S.

You should read the linked article [newyorker.com] (not the link from the story, but one linked from it.) The scale of the corruption seems to be reaching epidemic proportions. The story lists the yearly salary of the #2 official in the railway ministry as being $19k/yr and yet had a fortune over $100m. Another associate of the head of the railway ministry built a ~$700m business through bribes and kickbacks. The workers are, no doubt, being paid less than $1k/yr. Redo your calculations based on that and you'll find just how much money has gone missing. It's very common for officials that have been caught to have been found with tens of millions of dollars worth of bribes. One of the biggest impediments for these officials isn't actually accepting the bribes but, instead, finding a place to store all the cash since the largest bill in circulation is a 100 yuan note worth ~$16. It's gotten so bad that bribes are now commonly made in gift cards since they're able to store value more densely.

Read the story...it's really shocking.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about 2 years ago | (#41712517)

So... everything is a big "shell game"?

What to do...
Cash in the mattress? pfft! fiat money, not worth the paper it is printed on.
Gold? - bubble, you can't eat it.
Just have lots of kids! Think of the children. They are the future!

Everything comes down to an existential question. If you can't answer it, your heirs will.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (2)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#41712615)

Keep in mind that the 100Bil figure is 'all in'. Maintanance, salaries, upkeep, expansion, the whole enchilada. It's costing the Chinese about $66.67 per person (1.5 billion Chinese on the mainland last I heard, probably a lot more now. Still, that's not too bad. Comparable figures for the US at 66.67/person is about 20Bil, which kinda high. The whole Amtrak budget is here [google.com] .

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41713369)

Comparable figures for the US at 66.67/person is about 20Bil, which kinda high.

Ahh, so about half the cost of the B-2 bomber program, one third the cost of the F-22 fighter program or about one month of occupation in Iraq.

Yep, we Americans never waste money on stupid shit. How dare those Chinese spend that kind of money on something like transportation when they could be giving us that cash to invade and bomb more countries for no reason.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 2 years ago | (#41712709)

Except... this is china. The scale of corruption in ANY third world country boggles the mind. China is not particularly surprising - because this is what happens there. In America your CEO is getting a 25% raise this year, where you'd be lucky to get anything. And ceo pay is 200x the median worker pay (up from 26 in 1970), in china CEO pay is probably 25x worker pay, but they collect bribes - which by the way go in part to pay bribes up the chain to senior government officials, of 175x worker pay or more. That's just how the game is played.

Corruption pervades the third world, and second world, that is, in large part, what holds them back. The blatant dishonesty (accepting bribes at all) and covert dishonesty (in hiding how much money you have) impedes everything done in those countries, because to even get a train ticket in china you've probably had to bribe your way to either your job or onto the train, or both.

Also seen in another developing country (2)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 2 years ago | (#41712827)

Railroad development in the 19th century USA was a cesspool of explicit and implicit corruption. It also created vital infrastructure.

The crash in China reads at first glance like any other Horrible Example from systems safety engineering: lack of redundancy and communication, and poorly interacting emergency procedures.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41713345)

Hmm... a value density problem. Perhaps one or two of these corrupt officials could consider using Bitcoin. It would be relatively simple to store a million dollars worth of wealth in a single coin, on a usb stick, or even in one's head.

I'm certainly not endorsing the actions of these officials (which to me is less ethical than all current Bitcoin-related activity other than assassinations), just pointing out that gift cards are likely not the best tool for the job.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712387)

""The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result." : This happens everywhere."

It doesn't excuse sloppy construction, maintenance, or how it is run; but imagine how many deaths there would be if you instead transported people by road.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (2, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 2 years ago | (#41712419)

This is why we can't have nice things in the US. Instead of doing something and possibly wasting some on corruption we spend 6x the budget debating minutia and auditing the auditors. In the end we have nothing and spend decades accomplishing nothing for fear of doing something wrong.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712445)

Well, I'm not sure sure abou tthat. We are probably just as bad except we spend it on our military industrial complex and on project corruption in OTHER countries. Iraq, Afganistan, etc.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41712451)

"The problem is, corruption has reared its ugly head." : When does that not happen to some extent?

It doesn't happen here. We passed a law saying that nobody can use the word "corrupt" when referring to a public official.

"The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result." : This happens everywhere.

True, but when people die on our railways, we investigate what happened to them. We don't just go "Well, they must have gotten lost... or... something. Oh well."

Maybe China is planning for the future, maybe?! You know, like when their middle class is comparable in size to that in other developed nations?

From what I've seen in my country of late, it's less about China trying to develop a middle class as big as ours, but us eliminating the middle class like them. But it's not much of a point... They are building out a high speed rail network that, while capable of ferrying passengers, is not its primary purpose. China has a massive industrial infrastructure and a lot of land to cover between its mountainous and resource-rich areas and the coast, where ships pick up and transport the goods.

"The sad fact is that so much money is being spent, no one can even keep count." : Then what is the "$100 Billion" figure?! Sheesh! Make up your mind!

Quick! How much have we spent occupying Iraq? Please provide citations supporting your answer. Note: I'll only accept citations that give an exact figure, not an estimate. ... Wait... you mean, they're all estimates? unpossible!

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712589)

There is a world of difference between "so much money being spent, no one can even keep count." and a rough number estimate. I'm sure most people don't expect any large project to come out penny perfect. This isn't a trip to the grocer for 4 items. But to claim that it's so much that no one can count it? That's a bit over the top.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (3, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | about 2 years ago | (#41712617)

They are building out a high speed rail network that, while capable of ferrying passengers, is not its primary purpose. China has a massive industrial infrastructure and a lot of land to cover between its mountainous and resource-rich areas and the coast, where ships pick up and transport the goods.

You wouldn't build a high-speed network if efficient movement of freight was your primary goal. HSR is much more expensive to build and maintain, a network built primarily to move people will go different places than one built to move things like coal and petrochemicals. The US probably has the most efficient freight network in the world in terms of $/mile/ton, but if you live anywhere outside the Northeast you may as well not bother even looking at intercity rail. Unless you're a lump of coal.

In the case of China the network links major population centers. They even blew a large fortune on a maglev line that was supposed to go from Shanghai to Beijing , though it doesn't go maglev all the way for cost reasons. They also built a line to Tibet for strategic reasons. I don't know if that's high speed, though - looking at the web site [chinatibettrain.com] it seems to average about 100 km/hr.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (1)

wisty (1335733) | about 2 years ago | (#41713403)

Chinese HSR is often pretty slow. There's some really fast stuff, but most of it is only moderately high speed. But as you say, it's not low-cost freight lines (which China als has plenty).

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#41712469)

"The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result." : This happens everywhere.

Not like this it doesn't: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wenzhou_train_collision [wikipedia.org]
Here's a picture of the accident scene: http://i.imgur.com/YJAAA.jpg [imgur.com]

There was a string of preventable events, from the lowliest track worker to the people that designed the control systems, which led up to the accident.
The Chinese Government tried to throw a blanket over the whole event, but the public outrage forced a review of the events.
/The USA actually has a lot of rail accidents, with injuries, but almost no one dies.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (2, Insightful)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#41712625)

Yes, the US has a lot of rail accidents. No, hardly anybody rides the train anymore. Too damned expensive, something like 3 or 4 times the cost of a plane ticket. Kinda hard to kill someone on a train if they're not riding it.

FUD ... even in Germany people die ... (2)

acidfast7 (551610) | about 2 years ago | (#41713163)

I love the high speed rail in Germany and use it almost every day. However, every HSR system will have accidents. It's the cost of doing business when you're propelling people at 200mph for hundreds of kms or more at a time. It's almost impossible to police the entire system.

Link to German accident where 101 people died. [wikipedia.org]

Don't get me wrong, I hate the Chinese government's response. And I hate the fact that when you watch the videos of the train cars being buried without investigation that you can see bodies falling out. I also hate the fact that they cancelled the S&R operation and a few people disobeyed and found a living baby. But, stating that deaths due to HSR only happen in China is quite naïve.

And, FWIW, the US doesn't have HSR, so you can't compare rail accidents between China/Germany and the US. The Acela Express is a huge POS (not ever really HSR), and it seems to be getting worse every time I use it :(

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41713333)

happens in germany too: http://s1.aecdn.com/images/news/high-speed-trains-steam-20-18277_14.jpeg

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 2 years ago | (#41712513)

I hadn't noticed since I didn't even read the whole summary but yeah. It seem to suck.

Bla bla poor end all development and future growth of the economy.

Or understand that transportation is important for China. Also understand that they are growing and likely can get money from the markets (with Ben increasing M2 at a yearly rate of 10% these last 12 months there's plenty to go around..) so why not develop towards the future and future prosperity? I doubt they pay for it with taxes on the poor anyway.

It's not like people was rich here in Sweden in the 19th century. We built railways anyway - And it was good.

Huh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712521)

"The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result." : This happens everywhere.

Don't be a d-bag. In 2011, a high speed train flew off the tracks. Almost everyone was killed, and those that survived were silenced. It's buried there to this day along with incriminating evidence of negligence and you can go dig it up if you feel like it.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#41712535)

Where's the scandal?! $100B divided by 2 million employees equals $50,000 per employee -- high for China, maybe, but matches the MEDIAN male income in the U.S.

Because that money doesn't go to the workers.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (2)

guruevi (827432) | about 2 years ago | (#41712543)

100B is 0.1 Trillion for a country the same size of the US. Compare that to the military budget of either country and you should see that the problem is not necessarily cost of the project, it's the will power of the governments to invest in it.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#41712633)

Where's the scandal?!

$100 billion budget, 1 million riders. Seems pretty scandalous to me.

Rail accidents are quite rare events (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 2 years ago | (#41712639)

"The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result." : This happens everywhere.

At least here in France, rail accidents are extremely rare events. A quick search at wikipedia suggests that this is no exception [wikipedia.org]

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (1)

Kyusaku Natsume (1098) | about 2 years ago | (#41712975)

The New Yorker article should be the one posted, not the stupid crap of "The Diplomat". I think that the problem with chinese corruption from american POV is that they are not getting their share of it. For the corruption that Walmart or Halliburton promoted in Mexico that are in significant ways the cause of our security crisis they are only getting a slap in the wrist.

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (2)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about 2 years ago | (#41713157)

Where's the scandal?!

$100B divided by 2 million employees equals $50,000 per employee -- high for China, maybe, but matches the MEDIAN male income in the U.S.

Given that the $100B actually includes much more than employee salary, like, uh, the material costs of BUILDING the railroad, and trains, and stations, etc, the figure seems rather like a bargain.

"The problem is, corruption has reared its ugly head." : When does that not happen to some extent?

"The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result." : This happens everywhere.

"There is also the problem that many of Chinese poor make so little money they can't afford to ride it." : Maybe China is planning for the future, maybe?! You know, like when their middle class is comparable in size to that in other developed nations?

"The sad fact is that so much money is being spent, no one can even keep count." : Then what is the "$100 Billion" figure?! Sheesh! Make up your mind!

Typical of those living in developed countries, you are applying your values to the money. Think not of what $100B is worth in the US. Think of what it is worth in China.

You say that 50,000 is the median for the median male income in the US. This is a meaningless statement relative to the discussion for two reasons.
  - 50,000 is enormous in China
  - median doesn't mean shit. Most of the workers will be making a dollar a day and those in charge will take the balance.

You say that in addition to salaries, the $100B covers the building of the railroad, which is correct, but then again you have to take into account the drastically different costs of production in China (especially for the government) versus the costs of production in whatever country you live in.

Geez, way to spoil things (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 2 years ago | (#41713225)

You must be fun at the watercooler with your facts and logic and reasonable thinking.

Anyway, the Brits cut costs on their rail network and it resulted in lots of people dying when infrastructure collapsed and years of totally disrupted service around the country. And the US rail system is a joke with also many many deaths thanks to lousy infrastructure.

Corruption is indeed a problem in China but at least they are dealing with it, and not with leisure resort prisons but with death penalties. It ain't perfect but the west is hardly any better. It is one of the reasons health care is such a problem in the west, turns out that the more money you put in, the less the nurses get and the more managers you get with paychecks totally unrelated to the worth of their work. But hey, it ain't in brown envelopes, so everything is alright or so says the party of managers (Tories, VVD, Republicans) and they are trustworthy surely.

Oh wait, no, VVD Senator turns out to be corrupt was in the news yesterday, what a suprise. And this week, top managers of health care insurers in Holland make salaries closing in on the half a million euro's, far more then was agreed upon, not that the right wing government did anything to check of course. Nope it is a total surprise to them...

Re:WTF, submitter and green-lighter?! (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#41713425)

"The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result." : This happens everywhere.

Actually the Japanese high speed rail system, the Shinkansen (bullet train), has never had a fatality. It was the first one in the world, is still the fastest in the world, exists in a country prone to earthquakes and other natural disasters, but has an almost flawless safety record.

Railgun fund. (0)

Dr Max (1696200) | about 2 years ago | (#41712285)

Wait this train won't carry a 1000 passengers it just launches a VW beetle size projectile at mach 5 into the air.

$100 Billion?!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712297)

That's is a huge amount of money... can't they do what they did in the West to build the railroads and just hire cheap Chinese workers? [yes, this is a tasteless joke, as circumstances back then were horrendous and many people died]

Don't bother reading the actual article. Its fake (3, Insightful)

tloh (451585) | about 2 years ago | (#41712307)

I don't know what kind of reputation "THE DIPLOMAT" has in the field of journalism, but this article is just pure crap. Despite the title, the article has almost nothing to do with high speed rail in China. Using recent problems that have come to light with the management of China's rail system, the article is actually just a mostly unflattering portrayal of the fiscal situation in China's military. A more accurate title for the article should be something like "Corruption plagues the PLA".

An excerpt for you:

This breakdown suggests that 100% of the PLA’s budget was diverted towards real requirements. But the parable of the railways strongly suggests that this cannot be right. How much of the PLA’s budget has been spent on retirement homes for generals in Florida, or funneled into private business ventures, or used to buy promotions? How much has been wasted on bogus capabilities that the military doesn’t really need, but whose purchase helped to line influential pockets? And how much has been spent on genuine capabilities, but capabilities whose price tag was hugely inflated so that highly-placed officials could skim off the surplus?

There is almost nothing of value on high speed rail that has not been already revealed from other media sources.

Re:Don't bother reading the actual article. Its fa (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 2 years ago | (#41712365)

I don't know what kind of reputation "THE DIPLOMAT" has in the field of journalism, but this article is just pure crap. Despite the title, the article has almost nothing to do with high speed rail in China.

Yes, it's a very weird and completely pointless article. It really does start off talking about high speed rail, but then inexplicably jumps to corruption in the PLA (People's Liberation Army) and then proceeds to jump back and forth between the two topics for no apparent reason, making absolutely no worthwhile comments about either.

Re:Don't bother reading the actual article. Its fa (4, Informative)

philpalm (952191) | about 2 years ago | (#41712545)

They link to the New Yorker's article: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/10/22/121022fa_fact_osnos?currentPage=all [newyorker.com] Corruption is continuing in China, but it will take a major reform/progressive movement to stop it all. The New Yorker is mainly on the railroad budget and you will have to go elsewhere to find dirt on the PLA's progress/threat.

Corruption? In China? Shocker. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712311)

"...The problem is, corruption has reared its ugly head."

No, I'd say the problem is anyone assuming or painting a picture that a project of this magnitude did not have corruption built into it years ago before ground even broke.

Please don't make it sound like "corruption" is some new concept that was magically birthed from a $100 billion dollar program just last week that no one has ever heard of.

What Is It ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712333)

That causes certain people to become obsessed with high speed rail?

In the UK the government is pushing ahead with a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham that will cost tens of billions. It won't reduce travelling time massively and no doubt will be too expensive for the average person to use regularly.

Re:What Is It ... (5, Interesting)

vakuona (788200) | about 2 years ago | (#41712425)

Wrong on many levels. The West Coast Main Line (WCML) is forecast to hit capacity soon. In fact, they have had to reduce stops, remove stops etc, to keep the line running with any reasonable frequency. So a new line is needed. If you are building a new line, there is no good reason to not build HSR line. The costs will be fairly similar anyway. The high speed element is something nice, but not the main point of building a new line.

Re:What Is It ... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41712869)

If you are building a new line, there is no good reason to not build HSR line.

Except if the igher cost of the high speed rail line outweighs the increase benefits of the line. A high speed rail line does cost more than a more modest approach. What I've been hearing worldwide is that most such HSR lines lose money. Meaning they aren't passing the most basic economics test (that is, having a positive ROI).

Re:What Is It ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41713279)

Do roads pass ROI? How do you calculate that?
Just because you

Has the author ever been to China? (4, Insightful)

npridgeon (784063) | about 2 years ago | (#41712363)

Well, obviously, the extremely poor can't afford to ride the train. American or European poor couldn't afford to ride the train either. I just got back. The cost of a ticket from Fuzhou to Xiamen (around 2 hours at about 200 km/h) was 122 RMB. That converts to just over $20 US dollars. Extremely inexpensive, in my opinion. There are many slower trains that are much cheaper. Many migrant workers travel by train to the cities, and back home during the holidays.

Re:Has the author ever been to China? (2)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | about 2 years ago | (#41712607)

My understanding is that most migrant workers take busses because the trains are too expensive. I've ridden on these myself, they stack them full of bunk beds, probably not very safe, although I doubt what I rode in was the worst. However not all migrant workers earn exactly the same income, and I talked to some laborers on a (slow) train who were returning home by train.

However the article's point is still not a good one: it is unlikely any train system could compete in price with the cheapest buses, so as long as there are people who are poor enough that they prefer that tradeoff between price and safety/comfort, there is really no point trying to cater to them with the train system.

Re:Has the author ever been to China? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#41713435)

This argument always comes up when talking about any large project in a country with lots of poor people. Why does India have a space programme when there are hundreds of millions living wretched existences in extreme poverty?

The only way to you get everyone's standard of living up is to improve your country. Transport links create opportunities and new business, which creates jobs and wealth for the poor. Even if they can't afford to use these trains today they will in a decade or two.

100 billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712373)

Why thats nothing! We pissed away tons more money on some useless ceo's!

GO USA! WE'RE #1

Concern troll submitter is concerned (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712375)

What is it with Americans' hatred of passenger rail? It works, it's safe, cost-effective, and requires less government subsidy than highways or airport travel. It's also a hell of a lot more pleasant than flying.

Re:Concern troll submitter is concerned (2)

The Snowman (116231) | about 2 years ago | (#41712443)

What is it with Americans' hatred of passenger rail? It works, it's safe, cost-effective, and requires less government subsidy than highways or airport travel. It's also a hell of a lot more pleasant than flying.

Here in the U.S., you get Amtrack. Subsidized, expensive, and slow. Doesn't own its own tracks, so regularly stops to let cargo trains through. It can cost twice as much as flying and take twice as long to get there. Sometimes it is faster (rarely), but never cheaper that I have heard of.

The U.S. is more spread out than Europe. We have cities which are essentially islands of millions of people with hundreds of miles of cornfields between them. Travel is different here than in Europe. Different strokes for different folks.

Re:Concern troll submitter is concerned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712463)

Here in the U.S., you get Amtrack. Subsidized, expensive, and slow. Doesn't own its own tracks, so regularly stops to let cargo trains through. It can cost twice as much as flying and take twice as long to get there. Sometimes it is faster (rarely), but never cheaper that I have heard of.

It was cheaper for me, going from Florida to NYC. Actually, it was cheaper for my whole family than it was for a single plane ticket. Admittedly it was 20 years ago or so, but I don't exactly travel that much, so I've never had a reason to look up tickets since.

The U.S. is more spread out than Europe. We have cities which are essentially islands of millions of people with hundreds of miles of cornfields between them. Travel is different here than in Europe. Different strokes for different folks.

If it doesn't work somewhere, then don't build the tracks there. And then we have plenty of cities that are close to each other, and which would benefit from such a chain.

Re:Concern troll submitter is concerned (2)

foniksonik (573572) | about 2 years ago | (#41712597)

"If it doesn't work somewhere, then don't build the tracks there. And then we have plenty of cities that are close to each other, and which would benefit from such a chain."

Maybe. There is the POV that if you have to maintain an airline infrastructure to support travel for many destinations, it might just be more cost effective to not duplicate that with a separate competing infrastructure.

OTOH it could be the airlines lobby to prevent said competition to maintain what profits they can.

The truth is likely that both hypotheses are correct.

Re:Concern troll submitter is concerned (1)

smellotron (1039250) | about 2 years ago | (#41712621)

It was cheaper for me, going from Florida to NYC. Actually, it was cheaper for my whole family than it was for a single plane ticket. Admittedly it was 20 years ago or so, but I don't exactly travel that much, so I've never had a reason to look up tickets since.

I have taken a number of Amtrak trips more recently than you, but in a different region. Here's my story:

  • In-state travel in Illinois vs. airplane: Amtrak is substantially cheaper and door-to-door time is competitive due to ORD/MDW security.
  • In-state travel in Illinois vs. car: Amtrak is cheaper for one adult. Door-to-door time is 30-90 minutes worse, depending on rail congestion.
  • Regional travel (Wisconsin, Michigan, etc.) vs. plane: Amtrak is always cheaper. Door-to-door time is 2x or 3x worse, probably in part due to the Great Lakes.
  • Regional travel vs. car: Amtrak is always more expensive. Door-to-door time is up to 180 minutes worse because the train route goes several urban areas instead of taking a direct path.
  • National travel (midwest-to-coast) vs. plane: More expensive and substantially (maybe 6x) slower.
  • National travel vs. car: On par with driving because it travels overnight, but YMMV depending on driving buddies. Really this is more like a "land cruise", where you are paying for scenic transportation and room & board.

I'll only take train by myself in-state. Out-of-state it only makes sense if I can take advantage of my time on the train (vacation relaxing, or work with 3G/4G). Traveling cross-country is a vacation, not effective transport.

If it doesn't work somewhere, then don't build the tracks there. And then we have plenty of cities that are close to each other, and which would benefit from such a chain.

Yeah, placement is key. But as I learned from SimCity 2000: over-building a rail line is an added expense, but under-building is a complete waste.

Re:Concern troll submitter is concerned (2)

Ichijo (607641) | about 2 years ago | (#41712707)

Here in the U.S., you get Amtrack.

Did you know that Amtrak's only profitable line is also the nation's only high speed line, the Acela Express? It "made a profit of about $41 per passenger" [businessinsider.com] in 2008.

That's why all intercity passenger rail ought to be high speed rail!

The U.S. is more spread out than Europe. We have cities which are essentially islands of millions of people with hundreds of miles of cornfields between them.

We also have city pairs that have the population density to support high speed rail. Boston to NYC to Washington, D.C., Los Angeles to San Francisco, Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Portland to Seattle, and so on.

Re:Concern troll submitter is concerned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712977)

I've never understood why we don't build out those corridors with an eye to expanding them if need be in the future. Definitely do Portland to Vancouver B.C. there's tons of passengers there. And I'm sure that those other ones are as well. Then, when you're turning a profit on that, consider where else you can build up the high speed service. I don't fly any more because of the TSA pedophiles and perverts, but the last time I took the train it was literally 19 hours behind by the time we got to WI from WA. That was supposed to be a 40 hour ride and ended up taking almost 70 to complete IIRC.

The main problem we have is that you're sharing service with freight and what freight needs is different from what passengers need at this point.

Re:Concern troll submitter is concerned (4, Insightful)

Miamicanes (730264) | about 2 years ago | (#41712881)

The problem isn't that the US is more spread out... the problem is that Europe actually HAS open space to cheaply build new rail corridors in between cities, whereas in many parts of the eastern US, you can drive a hundred miles or more without seeing anything more rural than an occasional vacant lot next to the interstate. Nebraska and Kansas might have cities surrounded by cornfields, but east of the Mississippi, our cities tend to be surrounded by hundreds of miles of single-family homes, strip malls, and office parks.

The other problem in the US is our obsession with either keeping high-speed passenger trains 100% separate every last inch of the way, or forcing them to be capable of surviving a head-on collision at full speed with a mile-long coal train if they share tracks with a conventional train anywhere along the route... even if they'd only be running at low speed in the areas where they shared tracks (like the last mile or two into a big city station). In Europe (particularly in Germany), they built the first segment of the new high-speed tracks, and tied them in to the existing rail network at both ends... then extended them from there. In America, we piously plan to do stupid things, like build isolated segments of high-speed rail that don't directly connect to *anything*, and would force passengers to physically switch trains for years, or forever.

HSR between ONLY Bakersfield and Corcoran, or ONLY Tampa and Orlando, is insane. Brand new HSR tracks between Bakersfield and Corcoran that continue into LA and San Francisco along the existing tracks and immediately cut an hour or two off the time it would take to make the trip at low speed, then fill in the gaps to reduce the time even more, are a great start to what's going to be an awesome HSR network someday. Ditto, for new HSR tracks between Melbourne and Orlando (eventually Tampa) that connect to the existing FEC tracks between Jacksonville and Miami.

Engineering-wise, Acela-type trains aren't ideal... but they're actually pretty good. Their 150mph speed limit is due to Amtrak, not engineering -- Bombardier's engineers designed them to run at 186mph, and in a flat state like Florida, they could do 200mph without breaking a sweat given suitable tracks and administrative approval.

As far as subsidies go, EVERY transportation mode is subsidized from general tax revenues. Gas taxes haven't fully supported road construction and maintenance costs since the mid-1990s (they USED to, but as gas prices have increased, the federal and state governments have gradually reduced them to levels that no longer cover 100% of costs). In 2011, Amtrak's total subsidy came out to about $4.25 per American. Nothing to really be proud of, but far from the scandalous rape some would have you believe it is... and most of THAT is for fixed costs that are basically the same regardless of whether Amtrak runs one train or ten trains through any given station per day. Under the current status quo, Amtrak can't "win" regardless of what it does. If it raises fares, it gets decried for being expensive. If it lowers fares, it gets attacked for requiring subsidies. The point is, Amtrak is Amtrak. For better or worse, right now it's all we have. In a few years, we'll have the backbone of California HSR, and FEC Railroad's new passenger service in Florida running along with Amtrak.

Re:Concern troll submitter is concerned (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 2 years ago | (#41712919)

I'd say that anything requiring a subsidy is inherently inefficient if anything other than externalities are being accounted for.

Sounds like Medicare in the US (1)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about 2 years ago | (#41712377)

"The sad fact is that so much money is being spent, no one can even keep count." Except in the US, guys like this are sending millions in Medicare money to Cuba to give Castro's economy a much-needed boost: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2012/10/18/2734149/laundering-ring-moved-medicare.html [bellinghamherald.com]

Re:Sounds like Medicare in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712489)

Were you paid to post this? I know the right-wing assault on medicare is underway, but get a grip. You're going to need medicare someday, unless you really want to try to get private insurance at age 65 with the usual random assortment of age-related medical issues.

Re:Sounds like Medicare in the US (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | about 2 years ago | (#41712613)

Sorry, dude.

I've worked in the health care field and Medicare and Medicaid are literally a license to print money. These systems are horrifically expensive and do not provide the kind of medical treatment you would want for your parents or grand-parents. We need something, but the existing system is making someone very rich and the elderly and poor are not getting the care they need.

Re:Sounds like Medicare in the US (1)

0WaitState (231806) | about 2 years ago | (#41712635)

The horrifically expensive part is the American approach to provisioning health care. It costs a third more per capita than other first-world countries and provides worse outcomes. But that does not mean the solution is to dismantle the only single-payer system in the US and replace it with vouchers, making the elderly go to insurance providers that would prefer to place them on an ice floe.

Medicare may suck but it is better than anything else the US is doing in health care.

Re:Sounds like Medicare in the US (2)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about 2 years ago | (#41712721)

You are asking if I was paid to post this? No, but I, like thousands of other fraud examiners, am paid to track down fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It is an enormous problem - very real. I don't have a right-wing or a left-wing agenda at all - politicians from both sides of the aisle are fully engaged in helping fight Medicare fraud - this is a completely non-partisan issue. The link I copied is to a news story from two days ago involving a real case from Miami - where a fraudster is accused in criminal court of funneling millions in Medicare funds to banks in Cuba. Maybe YOU want to play politics with this issue, but I don't know any serious folks who look at this as a political football at all.

Re:Sounds like Medicare in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712781)

Let me break it to you gently: there is fraud in almost every government program. There is even more fraud in the private sector. Suddenly focusing on medicare fraud (instead of defense fraud, banking fraud, construction fraud, etc. etc.) suggests you have an agenda.

Since you're interested in medicaire fraud, would you like to look at health insurance administrative expenses being repackaged as medical costs so they can get around the 85% of premiums limit and get back to the important business of executive bonuses?

Re:Sounds like Medicare in the US (1)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about 2 years ago | (#41712981)

1. I don't have an agenda. Healthcare fraud examination is my job - I don't know about "almost every government program". 2. I was referring to a specific, timely news article about a Miami criminal case involving Medicare funds leaving the US and showing up in Cuban banks 3. What you are saying regarding private insurance admin expenses is very interesting. Do you have some special insight into the problem? I'm like Ross Perot - I'm all ears. Contacting me is simple - my name + gmail.

Re:Sounds like Medicare in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41713041)

You chose to bring up medicare in a discussion of the chinese way of constructing a rail network.

Re:Sounds like Medicare in the US (1)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about 2 years ago | (#41713191)

1. From the article description: "The sad fact is that so much money is being spent, no one can even keep count".
2. From an NPR report dated October 11, 2007: "There's a nationwide crime epidemic going on that rakes in $35 billion or more each year. Exactly how much is being stolen is impossible to say, because the federal government doesn't try to measure it. It's Medicare fraud." http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15178883 [npr.org]
3. See the similarity? I do.
4. From the Miami Herald newspaper two days ago: "An offshore remittance company called Caribbean Transfers financed a complex money-laundering ring that moved more than $30 million in stolen Medicare money from South Florida into Cuba’s banking system, federal authorities said Thursday." Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/18/3056554/feds-remittance-firm-at-center.html#storylink=cpy [miamiherald.com]
5. Is this so hard to see the relationship? Do you see that I'm not politicking?

Amazing - i have two thoughts (1)

Rooked_One (591287) | about 2 years ago | (#41712391)

1 - i don't know where that shift button is when the capital form of myself is needed.

2 - 100 million is nothing compared to what that amount was worth 10 years ago

3 - we have sent china a lot of our manufacturing machinery - are we really surprised? // I had to add a third thought...

http://www.kuat-sexy.com/ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712399)

thanks for sharing

Central Planning (1, Interesting)

mfwitten (1906728) | about 2 years ago | (#41712411)

Central Planning does NOT work.

The key to progress in society with as little strife as possible is evolution, not revolution.

As with every other system of complexity, society can most effectively evolve (that is, adapt to the needs at hand) when there are robust processes of variation and selection (what some call the "Free Market"), which implies the localization and decentralization of the power structure; centralized power—by its very nature—inhibits the process of evolution by quashing variation and stifling selective forces. There is no such thing as an Intelligent Designer; it is foolish to put your faith in a "noble" bureaucrat, who gazes into his crystal ball and then—at everyone else's expense—pushes and pulls naive levers and buttons based on what he thinks he sees.

Re:Central Planning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712437)

So you're saying China isn't a formidable economic rival to America, right?

Re:Central Planning (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712447)

He never makes a reference to China, as China does not have Central Planning. I think it is just some off-topic rambling.

Re:Central Planning (2)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#41712647)

I love the Free Market. And maybe with luck, I'll live long enough to see one.

Fact is, there is no free market on the planet. They're all run by economic royalists out to fill their own pockets at everybody else's expense, and regulated to assure the big dogs their profits at the expense of the little guy. But keep on spouting the 'free market' line.

Re:Central Planning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712899)

(dryly)

Er... right. And America's interstate highway network just spontaneously emerged as a product of the free market to satisfy local demand for travel, without any evil government planners or federal funding. The routes emerged organically over time in response to market demands, and the land they were built on was all purchased at arm's length in 100% voluntary real estate transactions on the open market.

And pigs can fly. Command economies are as much of a lost cause as blind faith that there's actually such a thing as a totally free market.

Re:Central Planning (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#41713053)

It evolved from a gutter via 8,000 mutations.

$100 billion (1, Flamebait)

Virtex (2914) | about 2 years ago | (#41712455)

Running high speed lines across the nation is expensive — to the tune of $100 billion dollars a year.

Isn't that about what we pay to China every year just to cover the interest on the money our country has borrowed from them? At least all that interest money is being put to good use.

Re:$100 billion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712577)

It's more like $20 billion.

Obligatory (1)

guttentag (313541) | about 2 years ago | (#41712461)

"One hundred... BILLION... dollars." Well, now we know what Dr. Evil is doing in his retirement. He's building a high speed rail network in China, with frickin laser beams attached.

The Entire Chinese Economy is a Mirage (1)

Nova Express (100383) | about 2 years ago | (#41712473)

Command economies result is massive misallocations of capital compared to market economies, and this is also true of China [battleswarmblog.com] . The "Ghost Cities" are the biggest manifestation of economic distortion, but hardly the only one.

On the plus side, communist China is only killing thousands of its own people every year, a vast improvement on the millions (or tens of millions) killed in the past [battleswarmblog.com] . Progress!

Who says the US isn't investing in high speed rail (5, Funny)

T-Bucket (823202) | about 2 years ago | (#41712511)

See, who says the US isn't investing in high speed rail! Whose $100B do you think that is?

Re:Who says the US isn't investing in high speed r (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41713079)

It's the other way around you have all china's money and you spend it on killing terrorists.

but then there's this (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#41712547)

The total capacity of riders is increasing at a slower rate than their population so technically the "amount" of available high speed rail is going down, lol.

Re:but then there's this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712989)

The population here in China is shrinking, so, I'm not sure how you build more HSR and end up with it growing more slowly than the population which isn't growing at all.

Not so bad really.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712703)

Better a rail where you can't keep track of how much was spent then a war.

The US was spending twice that a month in Iraq.

FUCKING IDIOTS !! YU CAN BUY TWO WARS WITH THAT !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712751)

And have some change left over !! And the chinese can also flood the ranks with "interns" and cut that cost waaaaay doooooown !! Or let their citizens have more than one child, so long as those after #1 are given to the military !! Win-Win-Win !! Or okay keep your stinkin rail to North Haverbrook, Northweststadt, Rome, Rimini, and Naples and see where that'll get you !!

I live in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712867)

It is really sad to see the government spend $100bil on making themselves rich, while the poor have to suffer with toxic brown water and no social services. The people of China need to rise up and kick out those self-serving jerks.

Happy China bashing.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41712935)

yet another article to jump on the china bashing band wagon.

The price of progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41713015)

$100 billion a year? The article's title appears misleading. Likely a lot of that money goes into the infrastructure and materials. And a small percentage goes to bribes and corruption.

Some estimates in 2011 put the entire cost of their High Speed Rail expansion at $400 billion.

The New Yorker's article was a pretty scathing and detailed story about China's development of their High Speed Rail program. They had ambitious goals of crisscrossing their nation with high speed rail to move people around quickly and efficiently.

They also had corrupt people that got rich along the way. Perhaps the cost of corruption must be factored into getting things done; but they must ultimately get their corruption problems under control.

For all the quantity of people that they shuffle around the country, 40 people were killed as a result of a lightning strike on their signal-controlling computer box. An unfortunate reality, but it's the price of progress.

However, to put other things in perspective.

[1] The United States' Space Shuttle program costed $192 billion, in 2010 dollars, over the life of the program, from 1972 to 2011, or 39 years of technology. It costed a staggering $1.5 billion per launch of each shuttle. At this cost, it would have been cheaper to just stick with the proven Saturn V rockets, and just kept building them. The cost of launching a Saturn V was $1.17 billion (in 2012 dollars).
And the Space Shuttled killed 14 highly-trained Astronauts (meaning 14 very expensive individuals). But, that's a small price to pay for progress. And plus, you get all the fringe benefits that comes with being the high-tech leader.
No one at NASA would have though an O-ring would have doomed the Shuttle on a cold day; nor did anyone think foam would puncture a hole in Columbia's carbon fibre-reinforced carbon wing; even though it struck at 500+ mph. Again, that's just the price of progress. You have to take risks, in order to get ahead. You fall, you pick yourself up, and try again.

[2] With the lifting capabilities of the Saturn V, we could have lifted up an International Space Station in a handful of launches; as opposed to the 40+ flights that the Space Shuttle took to assemble it. NASA budgeted $72.4 billion in 2010 dollars for the ISS.

[3] The California high speed rail was estimated at $10 billion when California voters voted for it in 2008. That seemed a reasonable amount for high speed rail in California. Then it blew up to $68 billion in 2012. This would have failed the vote if we were told it would cost so much. Now, who knows when it will ever be completed. Perhaps in 2028! That's over 16 years from now!

[4] Not to mention, the wasteful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wars that Bush 2 put on the country's high-interest credit card.
$468 billion for Afghanistan.
$845 billion for Iraq.

So, with the cost of other things in perspective - China spending $400 billion on their High Speed Rail system, and dealing with corruption along the way, and the tragic deaths of 40 people as the result of a lightning strike, then the price of their progress and development does appear justified.

However, now that I know of the inner details, I'm not so sure I would want to ride on their high speed rails anymore. But I'll probably just take the risk one day, and ride it, hoping that disaster doesn't strike. =)

USA's yearly budget for "defense": $700 billion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41713033)

Where's the outrage?

The sad fact? (1)

kpatient (1772238) | about 2 years ago | (#41713133)

"There is also the problem that many of Chinese poor make so little money they can't afford to ride it. The sad fact is that so much money is being spent, no one can even keep count."

Shouldn't that read:
The sad fact is many of the Chinese are too poor and make so little money they can't afford to ride it. The problem is that so much money is being spent no one can even keep count.

Rail is for poor countries. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41713295)

Rail can only take you to fixed destinations. It cannot match the convenience of cars for short-distance travel (including moving stuff and shopping), especially with the upcoming advent of safer-at-faster-speeds self-driving cars. Rail also cannot match the long-distance advantages of helicopter and airplane flight (especially if government security theater, regulations, and other barriers against new technologies [google.com] are lifted). But rail does have one advantage: it can be a stop-gap solution for countries where too many people are too poor to afford cars or flights.

USA has abandoned trains a long time ago. It should be looking toward the future, not the past. Socialist planners would love rail for all the new powers it gives them over people's lives, coordinating them around centralized points, but that is not in anyone else's interest. We need private investment in new technologies that set people free to go where they want: cheap energy and flight.

--libman

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