High Speed Rail (HSR): 220 MPH and 17,000 Miles of Track

By: | February 7th, 2013

One of the darlings of the industrial revolution, the railroad, helped move people and goods cheaply over long distances. But railroads have morphed into a super high technology where moving people at high rates of speed between major cities is now being seen as critical infrastructure in an increasingly competitive world.  HSRs are sprouting up far and wide as countries and regions are ever seeking more competitive advantages.

Many wonder what it must be like to take a HSR traveling at up to 220 mph.  I took the Shinkansen, Japan’s bullet train, 230 miles from Tokyo to Kyoto.  The Shinkansen averaged 100 miles an hour, rather slow in current HSR terms. Looking out the window made me dizzy and sick to my stomach within 30 seconds; I’d never seen the world blur by like that.  During the 2 1/2 hour ride it never got any better so I kept my eyeballs glued to the inside of the train.

The numerous benefits of HSRs include economics, energy security, sustainability, green jobs, congestion relief, productivity improvement, increased mobility, time savings and freedom.

In December 2012 China opened the world’s longest HSR route that stretches 1,425 miles between the capital of Beijing and Guangzhou one of China’s major commercial hubs. The HSR cuts the journey from 22 hours to eight hours.  The maiden voyage from Beijing’s West railway station began at 9:00AM and arrived in Guangzhou at 5:00PM.  The average speed during this journey was 187 mph.  The train made four stops along the way before arriving at its destination.

China brought its first high-speed train online in 2007 but it has fast become the world’s largest operator with over 6,000 miles of track now in service.  By 2020 China will have 30,000 miles of HSRs crisscrossing the country.

China has depended on technology from foreign companies including Alstom of France, Siemens of Germany, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japan to pull off this remarkable achievement. China’s CNRR Corp. builds the trains and lays the tracks.

As for the heretofore auto-centric United States the US High-Speed Rail Association (USHSR)has come up with a preliminary plan that breaks the country down into 10 mega regions and then connects them through a nationwide HSR system .  The current plan is for a 17,000 mile national HSR system to be built in four phases (see green, orange, purple and yellow lines below).

The plan incorporates state-of-the-art track, advanced control systems, and modern train stations with a top speed of 220 mph for trains connecting major cities and 110 mph for trains connecting smaller cities.  It is believed that an HSR system will help revitalize the economy, help spur on a US manufacturing boom, and create millions of jobs.

The USHSR Association has teamed up with a Hollywood filmmaker to produce a new television series on high-speed rail and related infrastructure around the world.  For more information visit http://www.highspeedrail.tv

David Russell Schilling

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