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Published on March 13th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

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China Wants to Connect its High-Speed Rail to Europe (Largest Infrastructure Project in History)

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March 13th, 2010 by Zachary Shahan
 
 

China is clearly taking the lead on high-speed rail, but it is not satisfied just to have it within its own country. It wants a straight connection to Europe on high-speed rail now.

It might seem like a pipe dream if it weren’t for the fact that China is already about halfway through the construction of the largest high-speed rail (HSR) network in the world with the fastest trains in the world.

With its internal projects getting closer to completion, China’s new goal is to continue on with a HSR revolution internationally in order to create two-day HSR trip times between Beijing and London (which itself might get some pretty fast trains soon)!

But it is about much more than a rail connection or two to Europe.


 
The news of China’s plans were announced in the South China Morning Post this week. The international network is supposed to include a total of 17 countries.

As mapped, this is likely to be the largest infrastructure project in history.

It would also extend south to Singapore and northeast into Mongolia and Russia.

Its main connection to Europe would likely go through India, Pakistan and the Middle East. Although, exact routes are not yet determined.

Plans Moving Forward

Reportedly, negotiations with the relevant 17 countries are already underway.

China would like to fund the whole project itself in exchange for natural resources it lacks. One of the senior consultants working on the project, Wang Mengshu, said, “We would actually prefer the other countries to pay in natural resources rather than make their own capital investment.”

Myanmar and Russia already have rail links planned and China is also in communication with Iran, Pakistan and India regarding development of the internal rail lines in each of those countries that would connect to the network.

Additionally, construction for the Southeast Asia link has started and Burma is about to begin building its portion of the link.

The central and eastern European portions of the network are moving forward as well. “We have also already carried out the prospecting and survey work for the European network, and central and eastern European countries are keen for us to start,” Wang said.

China wants to complete this network in 10 years.

Who Benefits?

Clearly, China is intent on this for its own benefit. In exchange for developing the system, it could acquire tons of much needed natural resources from other countries, as stated above. However, perhaps more importantly, creating such a network would probably solidify China’s central role in the Asian economy and perhaps even the world economy.

Nonetheless, China says that other countries approached it for help and that is how the idea got started. “It was not China that pushed the idea to start with,” said Wang. “It was the other countries that came to us, especially India. These countries cannot fully implement the construction of a high-speed rail network and they hoped to draw on our experience and technology.”

So, presumably, all the countries connected to the network would benefit from better transportation options and increased mobility. However, with China at the center of the process, it is likely to be the biggest winner.

The countries perhaps losing out due to the system’s development and investment would be those across the ocean who are more reliant on international air travel.

Is China going to make the US’ HSR network (if it ever gets built) look like a toy train set? Is this huge system ever going to get built? Is it going to get built in 10 years as China hopes?

With transportation being a central factor influencing economies and power since at least as long back as large-scale transportation options were formed, the answers to these questions are going to be intrinsically tied to the balance of power in the world economy and global society.

via the Transport Politic & the Edmonton Journal

Image Credits: Matthew Blackvfowler

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Mangieri

    Great article !

  • Caver38

    someone should tell the Chinese that SIngpore has removed its only railway line from Malaysia recently , there is no rail line into Singapore city centre now , only underground from the border with Malaysia. No Point of a high speed train if it does not go to th city centre ,

    • Anonymous

      I agree that going to the city center is helpful, but saying there’s no point in HSR if not going to the city center is like saying there’s no point in airports if they aren’t in the city center (which they can’t be)

  • John Doyle

    Well China, why stop there? How about going under the Bering Straights and on to Tierra del Fuego.

  • Dr.A.Jagadeesh

    China can do it. But will geopolitical compulsions allow it? Many a worthwhile project gets shelved between neighbouring countries. In such mega projects co-operation between countries means MORE COOING AND LESS OPERATION.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  • Jacob Solomon

    An excellent idea. Trains at their best are comfortable, allow you to strech your lege (you could even put a state-of-art gym into it), and have scope to serve meals and entertainment rivalling the top cruise lines.

    Run on electricity supplied by overhead catenary, that electric power could be of solar, geothermal, hydro, or wind origin. That would cut down the use of aviation fuel which is currently a great source of aviation fuel.

    The main problem is political. Any one of the seventeen
    countries could close the route down if it gets grumpy or worse. I would suggest running the main line to Europe closer to the great circle route – upgrading the trans-Siberian railway and then through Warsaw and Berlin, where eurostar service would connect for the likes of London, Paris, and Zurich.

  • Dave

    Jeff, well said! We need to ignore the Patrick Bateman(s) of the world, who will always find spurious excuses for collective inaction. What other excuses will Patrick Bateman find next when confronted with the fact that the EuroZone, which is also democratic, also had no trouble putting together an extensive high-speed rail network? Blame something in the water?

  • Dave

    Jeff, well said! We need to ignore the Patrick Bateman(s) of the world, who will always find spurious excuses for collective inaction. What other excuses will Patrick Bateman find next when confronted with the fact that the EuroZone, which is also democratic, also had no trouble putting together an extensive high-speed rail network? Blame something in the water?

  • Jason

    Jeff, can’t agree more!

    Guys, remember, only loser has all kinds of excuses.

  • Jason

    Jeff, can’t agree more!

    Guys, remember, only loser has all kinds of excuses.

  • Jeff

    @ Patrick Bateman

    “Fast trains are great, but I think I prefer my human rights. Those praising China for ‘getting things done’ should read up on its record in areas like human rights and protection of the environment.”

    Stop with this drivel about human rights and democracy. Only ideologues (who probably read just one book) examine everything through a political or a moral lens. How about looking at this pragmatically? What about the little things like leadership, vision, planning, execution, favorable economic returns, and oh yeah, the ability to sacrifice short-term benefits and minority interests for the long term gain and the greater good? Is it possible that these little things better account for success in infrastructure development than say, the degree of freedom-lovingness or god-fearingness?

    All the narratives of freedom vs. oppression, evil vs. good, democracy vs. authoritarianism are nothing but sheer mental masturbation, perverted excuses for our infracstructure-related failures, or cynical spins to turn a genuine negative (our paralyzing inaction) into a PR-positive (the need for democratic consultations with all parties involved).

    Sigh… We are beginning to sound like the Indians (from India), who use democracy to explain away every failure. Oh no, we can’t build this because we are a democracy. What, a subway? Subways are for commies! Bigger airports? Pffff, only dictatorships care about size.

    Our budget overruns are just a democracy-tax; deadlines are just best democratic estimates; indecision is just an exercise of the freedom to agree to disagree. Oh, certainly do not mind the endless parade of lawsuits brought by money-grubbing lawyers who supposedly represent the interests of those whose lives are about to be “ruined” by a high-speed rail project because these lawsuits are a sign of our mature democracy and our unbridled freedom to pursue self-interest above collective responsibility. Yep, you heard it right, collective responsibility is just commie talk; self-interest is the American way.

    So let China build! The more China builds, the less free it becomes. America will not follow China into sacrificing freedom for good infrastructure! Why build roads, bridges, high-speed rail, airports, etc. when we already have FREEDOM and LIBERTY?!

  • Jeff

    @ Patrick Bateman

    “Fast trains are great, but I think I prefer my human rights. Those praising China for ‘getting things done’ should read up on its record in areas like human rights and protection of the environment.”

    Stop with this drivel about human rights and democracy. Only ideologues (who probably read just one book) examine everything through a political or a moral lens. How about looking at this pragmatically? What about the little things like leadership, vision, planning, execution, favorable economic returns, and oh yeah, the ability to sacrifice short-term benefits and minority interests for the long term gain and the greater good? Is it possible that these little things better account for success in infrastructure development than say, the degree of freedom-lovingness or god-fearingness?

    All the narratives of freedom vs. oppression, evil vs. good, democracy vs. authoritarianism are nothing but sheer mental masturbation, perverted excuses for our infracstructure-related failures, or cynical spins to turn a genuine negative (our paralyzing inaction) into a PR-positive (the need for democratic consultations with all parties involved).

    Sigh… We are beginning to sound like the Indians (from India), who use democracy to explain away every failure. Oh no, we can’t build this because we are a democracy. What, a subway? Subways are for commies! Bigger airports? Pffff, only dictatorships care about size.

    Our budget overruns are just a democracy-tax; deadlines are just best democratic estimates; indecision is just an exercise of the freedom to agree to disagree. Oh, certainly do not mind the endless parade of lawsuits brought by money-grubbing lawyers who supposedly represent the interests of those whose lives are about to be “ruined” by a high-speed rail project because these lawsuits are a sign of our mature democracy and our unbridled freedom to pursue self-interest above collective responsibility. Yep, you heard it right, collective responsibility is just commie talk; self-interest is the American way.

    So let China build! The more China builds, the less free it becomes. America will not follow China into sacrificing freedom for good infrastructure! Why build roads, bridges, high-speed rail, airports, etc. when we already have FREEDOM and LIBERTY?!

    • Gwrightg

      what makes you thing we have liberty and freedom???? we have lost much of our liberty and freedom and dont even have a modern infrastructure to show for it; and will neve have one if the troglodytes keep holding back progress in that area. we are in danger of sinking into a third world, backwater country; (and dont worry about sharia law. we have the radical religious know-nothings to impose their “law” on us!!!!

  • http://www.gsage.com Gary Sage

    China did a great job with railways in Africa. The Engineering experience is there – the idea is right. The concept is awesome.

    I for one would love to see it happen!

  • http://www.gsage.com Gary Sage

    China did a great job with railways in Africa. The Engineering experience is there – the idea is right. The concept is awesome.

    I for one would love to see it happen!

  • DaveO

    There is no denying the fact that it is ambitious, but I think the article isn’t quite telling the whole story. As noted in the comments already, for time saving purposes alone, people will choose to make the connection between China and Europe by air travel. What the article misses I think is the intention for this linear network to connect dozens of cities along the way, and for those shorter connections to be the driving motivation.

  • DaveO

    There is no denying the fact that it is ambitious, but I think the article isn’t quite telling the whole story. As noted in the comments already, for time saving purposes alone, people will choose to make the connection between China and Europe by air travel. What the article misses I think is the intention for this linear network to connect dozens of cities along the way, and for those shorter connections to be the driving motivation.

  • http://catn.com Joe

    Surely this is the future, air travel can’t be maintained without the ongoing impact on the environment, and this HSR won’t only be to China but to Russia as well.

    Just take a look at the success of the Eurostar connecting to Europe’s HSR. An international (Europe -> Asia) HSR is clearly the next step.

  • http://catn.com Joe

    Surely this is the future, air travel can’t be maintained without the ongoing impact on the environment, and this HSR won’t only be to China but to Russia as well.

    Just take a look at the success of the Eurostar connecting to Europe’s HSR. An international (Europe -> Asia) HSR is clearly the next step.

  • Warrenmc

    Isn’t it interesting how inspired people can be when we (humans) say we are going to build something big or fast.

    The days of large thinking do seem to be gone for a lot of governments and organizations still caught in the grip of economic rationalism. If I wanted to motivate my staff, I could count on building something grand or ambitious to do this. If we just say we are going to talk to someone about using the latest product offering, they are interested in how much work it might save them, but they are never caught up in the idea.

    The issue, I suppose, is ownership. This is also challenged by the new mantra that governments (at least where I live) can’t build anything without almost complete commercial arrangement with a mega-corporation. I suppose the megas have ownership and their staff might be inspired, but what about the average punter. Do they need public infrastructure or more visionary projects to put their ownership into? Are wars the only legitimate state projects these days ?

    Gone are the days of Hydro Electric Schemes, National Rail networks, interstate freeways, manned space flight (orbiting doesn’t count).

    National Broadband networks can’t even seem to get off the ground and they are the lowest cost, biggest payback ventures to be had.

  • Warrenmc

    Isn’t it interesting how inspired people can be when we (humans) say we are going to build something big or fast.

    The days of large thinking do seem to be gone for a lot of governments and organizations still caught in the grip of economic rationalism. If I wanted to motivate my staff, I could count on building something grand or ambitious to do this. If we just say we are going to talk to someone about using the latest product offering, they are interested in how much work it might save them, but they are never caught up in the idea.

    The issue, I suppose, is ownership. This is also challenged by the new mantra that governments (at least where I live) can’t build anything without almost complete commercial arrangement with a mega-corporation. I suppose the megas have ownership and their staff might be inspired, but what about the average punter. Do they need public infrastructure or more visionary projects to put their ownership into? Are wars the only legitimate state projects these days ?

    Gone are the days of Hydro Electric Schemes, National Rail networks, interstate freeways, manned space flight (orbiting doesn’t count).

    National Broadband networks can’t even seem to get off the ground and they are the lowest cost, biggest payback ventures to be had.

  • Rich

    Just for a bit of extra context:

    1) it is already possible to get from Europe to China by rail, but it is not high speed in any sense of the word. See here for details of how to do LondonChina here: http://www.seat61.com/Trans-Siberian.htm

    2) there have been trials of sending standard shipping containers from China to Germany by train, to see how it compares with doing the sea route: http://trains.suite101.com/article.cfm/container_train_service_between_asia_and_europe

  • Rich

    Just for a bit of extra context:

    1) it is already possible to get from Europe to China by rail, but it is not high speed in any sense of the word. See here for details of how to do LondonChina here: http://www.seat61.com/Trans-Siberian.htm

    2) there have been trials of sending standard shipping containers from China to Germany by train, to see how it compares with doing the sea route: http://trains.suite101.com/article.cfm/container_train_service_between_asia_and_europe

  • MD

    Don’t see this happening. Flying would be a lot faster. Who in Mongolia is going to have the dosh to pay for a HSR ticket? Plus, the geo-politics are too complicated. Terrorist would blow it up in the Middle East!

  • MD

    Don’t see this happening. Flying would be a lot faster. Who in Mongolia is going to have the dosh to pay for a HSR ticket? Plus, the geo-politics are too complicated. Terrorist would blow it up in the Middle East!

  • Patrick Bateman

    Fast trains are great, but I think I prefer my human rights. Those praising China for “getting things done” should read up on its record in areas like human rights and protection of the environment.

    • James Helmut

      As if USA has no history of bad human rights record. Think about the black slavery,torture of iraqi prisoners, etc. USA is just as guilty as China on the breach of human rights, if not more.

      • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

        not to mention what was done to Native Americans

  • Patrick Bateman

    Fast trains are great, but I think I prefer my human rights. Those praising China for “getting things done” should read up on its record in areas like human rights and protection of the environment.

    • Jon Tran

      Human rights is an old issue. Let’s start the new chapter for travelers to see the REAL WORLD. Hope this dream comes true. China go for it!

      • Phillip Graham

        You said “Human rights is an old issue.” Well, say that to the millions of religious minorities persecuted in China to this day.

    • Malaysian Chink

      I think you should talking about the genocidal policy of the Americans. The is heinous crime against humanity.  Human rights in China is pale in comparison.

      Where are the Indians now.  Ever heard of Navajo Nation.  The whole of the North American continent was shrink to a mere 26,000 square miles for them.

      Not to mention the murderous campaign around the world,  Vietnam, Korean Peninsular,  Middle East and the list goes on. Did you know that the country of Laos  has more UXO (not UFO) than than all the combined ordinance of all the wars on this planet dropped on them. IT has all the American signature on it.

      How can you preach when you still have a blood stained butcher knife in your hands.

  • John C. Randolph

    This is ludicrous. Rail is dandy for day trips, but taking a train from Europe to China? There’s a reason why we developed air travel, and it’s because it’s *faster*. When railways make it to 500 MPH and are able to travel great-circle routes, let me know. Until then, I’ll catch a flight.

    -jcr

  • John C. Randolph

    This is ludicrous. Rail is dandy for day trips, but taking a train from Europe to China? There’s a reason why we developed air travel, and it’s because it’s *faster*. When railways make it to 500 MPH and are able to travel great-circle routes, let me know. Until then, I’ll catch a flight.

    -jcr

  • Charles Vismeg

    Well, China wants to show the world that the Chinese version of socialism is superior to some struggling and politically gridlocked democracies of the planet (meaning: the US of A specifically)are running on empty when it comes to leadership in achievements to inspire the rest of the world.

    They may not be champions of individual rights, but do much better at sociatal betterment.

  • Charles Vismeg

    Well, China wants to show the world that the Chinese version of socialism is superior to some struggling and politically gridlocked democracies of the planet (meaning: the US of A specifically)are running on empty when it comes to leadership in achievements to inspire the rest of the world.

    They may not be champions of individual rights, but do much better at sociatal betterment.

  • Jeff

    Jesus, this is insane, in a good, awe-inspiring way. Funny how big your dreams can be when you’ve got the money to pay for it.

  • Jeff

    Jesus, this is insane, in a good, awe-inspiring way. Funny how big your dreams can be when you’ve got the money to pay for it.

  • paulb

    Ha ha, China is making a laughing stock of the United States. It has the largest HSR network in the world, equal to all other networks combined. Whereas the US is so influenced by the airline lobby that they can’t even agree on building a line from San Francisco to LA.

    I predict the US is finished as a global super power within 10 years. Ha ha and good riddence.

  • paulb

    Ha ha, China is making a laughing stock of the United States. It has the largest HSR network in the world, equal to all other networks combined. Whereas the US is so influenced by the airline lobby that they can’t even agree on building a line from San Francisco to LA.

    I predict the US is finished as a global super power within 10 years. Ha ha and good riddence.

  • kl bhatt

    Though the concept is quite catchy & captivating, i feel that it is not going to happen anytime soon in Asia, as it does have geo political resons to go / not to go for this project.

    Secondly, this dream needs hell a lot of money one would imagine & if at all it comes into shape, as i said because of the political nature, its viability, affordability…

    But one thing i am sure, if it happenes, only CHINA can make it happen !!!!

  • kl bhatt

    Though the concept is quite catchy & captivating, i feel that it is not going to happen anytime soon in Asia, as it does have geo political resons to go / not to go for this project.

    Secondly, this dream needs hell a lot of money one would imagine & if at all it comes into shape, as i said because of the political nature, its viability, affordability…

    But one thing i am sure, if it happenes, only CHINA can make it happen !!!!

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com Global Patriot

    It would be an amazing feat to connect China to Europe by rail, allowing passengers to see the countryside and avoid all those airports, but if there is one country on the planet with the will power to make it happen, China is it.

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com Global Patriot

    It would be an amazing feat to connect China to Europe by rail, allowing passengers to see the countryside and avoid all those airports, but if there is one country on the planet with the will power to make it happen, China is it.

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