China unveils world's fastest bullet train: 262 mph

China officially unveiled the world's fastest train in operation, a silver bullet that can cover 126 miles in 45 minutes and top out at 262 miles per hour.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

China on Tuesday unveiled the world's fastest bullet train in operation, a silver sliver that can cover 126 miles in 45 minutes and top out at 262 miles per hour.

The Chinese-made CRH380 train will run at an average speed of 220 m.p.h. on a shiny new railway connecting Shanghai's western suburb of Hongqiao and the city of Hangzhou.

Its completion halves the time necessary to travel by rail between the two cities.

The new bullet train is yet another flex of the nation's industrial muscle, and the country's latest step toward its $120 billion goal of 13,000 kilometers -- about 10,000 miles -- of high speed rail in operation by 2012.

And, if reports are to be believed, the $4.4 billion project is a pretty big deal.

The Associated Press reports:

The efforts to develop China's own ultra high speed rail technology is a showcase project nearly on a par with the country's space program in terms of national pride and importance. Railway officials recently announced they were working on technology to boost speeds to over 500 kph (312 mph).

According to the report, China is basking in the global attention that its rail projects have drawn.

Among them: a $32.5 billion, 824-mile stretch between Beijing and Shanghai that will halve the travel time between the two cities, to five hours. It's scheduled to open in 2012.

Still, despite the few, prominent high-speed trains in existence in China, there are still many, many more that are grimy, slow and overcrowded.

The AP, again:

But the replacement of slower lines with more expensive high-speed trains has prompted complaints from passengers reluctant to pay higher fares, especially on shorter routes. Though the brand new trains were impeccably clean and the service attentive, Hangzhou's own grimy, unrenovated railway station lacks services and facilities to match.

The question: as China advances mega-projects in leaps and bounds to promote its image as modern and powerful, is it at too great a cost?

Photo: Alancrh/Wikimedia Commons
Map: The Transport Politic

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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