How can you tell when your country is lagging behind when it comes to things like high-speed rail? Well a good hint would be when the epitome of American global business IBM decides to build its global high-speed rail innovation center in Beijing.
China has in its drive to become a world leader has committed to investing over $300 billion in high-speed rail through to 2020 in contrast to the much argued invest in the US of only $8 billion. With that money China plans for 16,000 miles of new track by 2020 that will be used to carry trains travelling at speed approaching 220 miles per hour. A long with those plans the China Railway Company plans on hiring some 20,000 yo9ung engineers.
Part of the reason for this drive to modernize their rail system is the sheer number of people already using the rail system in the country. Last year saw 1.46 billion journeys by rail which was a 10.9% increase over the previous year and is expected to more than double within the next ten years.
Contrary to popular belief not all the work is being done by Chinese companies either as much of the technology for the signaling systems and 40 of the systems trains is being provided by Canadian company Bombardier.
At the same time in the US the plan to spend $8 billion suffers from bickering and government partisanship and really doesn’t even come close to what is already being requested by 40 states. States that have submitted 278 pre-applications for a number of high-speed passenger rail projects that right now amount to $102.5 billion in requests.
One of the arguments used by detractors of high-speed rail is that there isn’t the demand of ridership that the proponents might like to have us believe; but if the experience of Phoenix is any example the fact is that the demand is there especially if it is done right.
When Phoenix first started laying out plans for their modern light rail system they were only projecting some 25,000 weekly riders. It turns out that since they opened up a 20 mile line with 28 stops last December they’ve been seeing a ridership of 40,000 per week instead. this ridership is beating all the forecasts which would seem to indicate that there is more of a desire for public light rail transportation than previously thought.
hat tip to Treehugger / photo courtesy of KimonBerlin