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Transportation Technology

China Sets Sights On Rail Record 360

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the amazing-they-aren't-broke-after-the-olympics dept.
An anonymous reader writes "China is aiming to produce the world's fastest operating conventional train for its new high speed rail link between Shanghai and Beijing, achieving speeds up to 380 km/h and cutting the travel time between the two cities from the current ten hours to under five. The new rail link is scheduled to be completed within four years. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Railways' Deputy Chief Engineer has announced that China will be able to manufacture the new trains within two years."
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China Sets Sights On Rail Record

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  • Where's the fire? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Howitzer86 (964585) on Monday September 01, 2008 @02:51PM (#24833419)
    Wow. Why aren't we in the US trying to do this? We used to be so worried about the Communists beating us. But now it's like we don't even care. Where's the fire?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Because they are too busy bombing other nations for profit.
    • by FooGoo (98336) on Monday September 01, 2008 @02:58PM (#24833503)

      The project would grind to a standstill under the weight of lawsuits be environmentalists, the not in my back yard crowd, and gad flys. If it progressed it would grind to a standstill under the weight of poor project management. If it progressed it would grind to a standstill under the weight of poor engineering decisions. If it progressed it would be plagued with cost over runs. If it was finished it would cost $2,430 dollars a ticket one way and no one would use it.

      • Re:Where's the fire? (Score:5, Informative)

        by eggoeater (704775) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:07PM (#24833581) Journal
        Agreed. And the question in the discussion is: where's the appropriate middle ground?
        I'm betting the Chinese aren't doing an environmental impact study. And if your current residence is where the tracks are going to be, then you just got displaced and good luck finding someone to complain to, much less someone to sue. i.e. We cant build stuff like this at all because of civil rights and they can build stuff like this all too easily because of a lack of civil rights.
        • by FredMenace (835698) on Monday September 01, 2008 @04:20PM (#24834273)
          So how is it that we can manage to build 8-lane highways (complete with cloverleafs and overpasses and feeder roads), but can't manage to build a pair of tracks?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ScrewMaster (602015)
            Because the right-of-way was granted a long time ago, back when most of that land was farms or just wide-open space. Now we're way too built-up in areas where public transportation would be most useful to build an additional transport system.
            • Re:Where's the fire? (Score:5, Informative)

              by Dr. Cody (554864) on Monday September 01, 2008 @06:03PM (#24835261)

              One of the big shocks of going to China is just how fast the population drops off at the edge of a city. Regardless of the occasional news bite about China's elite, there aren't any exoburbs or suburbs in practice. Even with the world's largest population, China has the kind of empty space the United States hasn't seen in ages.

              Besides, China needs this kind of rail a hell of a lot more than the United States. Between the New Year and having to go to your hometown for official business (it's damn hard to change your official municipality of residence), trains in the PRC are up to their gills.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "And if your current residence is where the tracks are going to be, then you just got displaced"

          No,
          I take a towel. And I wait for the next lift.

        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday September 01, 2008 @06:05PM (#24835273)

          I'm betting the Chinese aren't doing an environmental impact study.

          And that's why the Chinese are progressing so much faster than us: they don't worry about idiocy like that.

          It's not that environmentalism is a bad thing; it isn't. However, only a complete moron would ever question the environmental impact of a train versus highways or airlines. Trains are more efficient than any other form of transportation for moving goods and people between two points. Of course, arguments can be made about transporting things between lots of different points (the argument for trucking vs. railroads), but we're talking about transport between two very large cities here. While planes are certainly faster, trains are cheaper (except in the USA) and far more fuel-efficient, which obviously means it's better for the environment.

          There: in 5 minutes, I've done what American government would have spent 6 months and millions of dollars doing a study on. That's part of why we're failing.

          As for displacing peoples' homes, we do that here all the time too. Except here, instead of just doing it for government projects (highways, etc.), we do it for private businesses who want some land but don't want to pay market rate for it. This even went to the Supreme Court, and they said it was OK. Tell me again how China is worse for civil rights (or more accurately, property rights).

          • by amRadioHed (463061) on Monday September 01, 2008 @06:36PM (#24835583)

            It's not that environmentalism is a bad thing; it isn't. However, only a complete moron would ever question the environmental impact of a train versus highways or airlines.

            You are missing the point. It's not that anyone isn't sure that as far as energy use and carbon emissions goes the train will be better, the point of the environmental impact study is to determine if their are any especially environmentally sensitive areas that should be routed around.

            • mod parent up (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Reverberant (303566) on Monday September 01, 2008 @07:12PM (#24835895) Homepage

              You are missing the point. It's not that anyone isn't sure that as far as energy use and carbon emissions goes the train will be better, the point of the environmental impact study is to determine if their are any especially environmentally sensitive areas that should be routed around.

              Exactly. Trains in the long run may be more environmentally sensitive than other transit modes, but rail lines to have real environmental effects that need to be considered: noise & vibration, drainage, impervious surfaces (at the stations), wildlife disruption, fire danger from sparks off the rail or electrical components, defoliants used to kill weeds along the ROW, construction disruptions, exhaust soot (for diesel-powered locos), lubricant leakage from the vehicles, grade crossings, toxic soils that may be unearthed for ROW cuts and/or tunnels, and etc.

              All of these things can be overcome, but it has to be done right, otherwise you'll wind up getting sued and have to rip up your project and rebuild it again to meet the appropriate standards.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:09PM (#24833601)

        In other words, the drive to do great things in the USA has been undermined by the mindless cynicism of people like "FooGoo" who see only problems.

        Guess what folks, we can (and we should) overcome every engineering, environmental and NIMBY objection if put our minds to it.

        I don't care if it is a cliche, but we put a fucking man on the moon almost half a CENTURY ago and have been content to rest on our laurels ever since.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ColdWetDog (752185) *

          I don't care if it is a cliche, but we put a fucking man on the moon almost half a CENTURY ago and have been content to rest on our laurels ever since.

          That's because nobody lives there. And because NASA somehow managed to put most of it's facilities in places where no one in their right minds would have ever put human habitation (I'm looking at YOU - Lyndon Baines Johnson Manned Spaceflight Facility - located in some godawful pestilant swamp south of Houston).

          Just try to put a launch facility somewhere

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by FooGoo (98336)
          I never said we shouldn't do it. Today must be mindless cynic day. I find it very cynical of you to interpret what I said as cynicism. I was merely pointing out the challenges involved in such attempting such an endeavor in the US. In response to the original posters question. Your rah-rah let's get'er donnnne bullshit didn't answer the question or propose solutions to the problem. I refer you to my more complete response to mindless cynics on this topic. http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=950063& [slashdot.org]
      • First, most environmentalists would LOVE to have a better RR system in this country because it would mean there are less cars on the road. Cars are one of the biggest polluters there are: not just the fuel it burns but the tires, metal, energy into manufacturing, the inefficiency of the whole car culture (suburbs etc...) etc.... Most environmental groups are pro-mass transit.

        The rails lines could be run along current easements.

        The only thing holding up rail is the public's attachment to the automobile: sta

        • by FooGoo (98336) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:29PM (#24833789)

          People make the mistake of thinking of the environmental crowd as just the hot earthers but there are many subgroups with different motives and methods. They run the gamut from Sierra Club and other conservation groups, to the odd preservation groups who want to create some natural snow globe with nothing ever changes, to groups like Greenpeace, ELF, and ALF. Any one of these groups can file a lawsuit.

          Also, it's not just building the tracks, it's also building the power substations if its an electric train (although a super fast steam engine might be cool), the train stations, and all the other supporting infrastructure. A lawsuit for environmental reasons can be brought against any piece of the infrastructure.

          • by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:49PM (#24833981)
            I agree. The same goes for the NIMBYs.

            I would also like to point out that many NIMBYs use the environmental laws as grounds for their lawsuits (I don't think not wanting it near you is grounds to sue), financing (lawsuits are expensive, after all and these groups are a great source of funds, and as a cover because, let's face it, no one has any sympathy for someone who just doesn't want a highway, rail road, cement plant, park, etc... in their backyard - it's selfish! Think of the greater good and all that.

            Of course, the pundits love to point fingers at the environmentalists! My favourite is blaming them for the lack of refineries in the US (It's not. If an oil co wanted another refinery, they would get it. The truth is that they're operating below capacity as it is and they just don't need more and if they built more, capacity would increase, depress prices, and their margins would further decline. But, it's PC to blame the environmentalists. ).

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ScrewMaster (602015)
              The truth is that they're operating below capacity as it is

              Common misconception, I'm afraid.

              Look, there's capacity and there's capacity. Refineries used to be shut down periodically for scheduled maintenance on the cracker and other critical equipment. There's a reason for that.
              Problem is, we are short on capacity (we still haven't recovered all that was lost in Katrina) and the existing plants are being run hard, 24/7/365 in many cases, with little or no time for maintenance downturns. Canadian ref
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Grishnakh (216268)

                So technically you're correct, but in practice we're pushing it. Really pushing it.

                Who's "we"? "We" don't own any refineries. Oil companies do. They're private companies, and running them "hard", 24/7/365, is most profitable for them. If they built more refineries, then it would cost them a huge amount of capital to build them, which takes away from their bottom line. Why would they want to do this? Instead, they can keep using their crappy old refineries to the limit, save money by not investing in n

          • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday September 01, 2008 @05:45PM (#24835111)
            While what you say is true, I would further point out that most people make the mistake of thinking that the "environmentalists" they see on TV and who want constant donations are the real environmentalists.

            Real environmentalists work behind the scenes with government and especially industry, helping them find ways to make industrial processes more efficient, less environmentally harmful, and in a surprising number of cases more profitable. Such people may be outsiders who devote their lives to making all of our lives better, they may be in-house scientists and engineers who tirelessly promote a better way to their bosses, they may be enlightened bureaucrats who work to find some balance between environmental concerns, and the needs of We the People.

            Those are the people I respect, unfortunately you never see their faces on the tube, so they don't really get credit for their work. I couldn't care less about the media hounds.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          First, most environmentalists would LOVE to have a better RR system in this country because it would mean there are less cars on the road. Cars are one of the biggest polluters there are: not just the fuel it burns but the tires, metal, energy into manufacturing, the inefficiency of the whole car culture (suburbs etc...) etc.... Most environmental groups are pro-mass transit.

          I know most environmental groups are theoretically for building railroads for mass transit. The problem is that most of them are agai

      • by rssrss (686344)

        Word.

      • by Dannkape (1195229) on Monday September 01, 2008 @04:46PM (#24834531)
        If Noah had lived in the United States today the story may have gone something like this:

        And the Lord spoke to Noah and said, "In one year, I am going to make it rain and cover the whole earth with water until all flesh is destroyed. But I want you to save the righteous people and two of every kind of living thing on earth. Therefore, I am commanding you to build an Ark." In a flash of lightning, God delivered the specifications for an Ark. In fear and trembling, Noah took the plans and agreed to build the ark. "Remember," said the Lord, "you must complete the Ark and bring everything aboard in one year."

        Exactly one year later, fierce storm clouds covered the earth and all the seas of the earth went into a tumult. The Lord saw that Noah was sitting in his front yard weeping. "Noah!" He shouted. "Where is the Ark?"

        "Lord, please forgive me," cried Noah. "I did my best, but there were big problems.

        First, I had to get a permit for construction, and your plans did not meet the building codes. I had to hire an engineering firm and redraw the plans. Then I got into a fight with OSHA over whether or not the Ark needed a sprinkler system and approved floatation devices. Then, my neighbor objected, claiming I was violating zoning ordinances by building the Ark in my front yard, so I had to get a variance from the city planning commission.

        Then, I had problems getting enough wood for the Ark, because there was a ban on cutting trees to protect the Spotted Owl. I finally convinced the U.S. Forest Service that I really needed the wood to save the owls. However, the Fish and Wildlife Service won't let me take the 2 owls.

        The carpenters formed a union and went on strike. I had to negotiate a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board before anyone would pick up a saw or hammer. Now, I have 16 carpenters on the Ark, but still no owls.

        When I started rounding up the other animals, an animal rights group sued me. They objected to me taking only two of each kind aboard. This suit is pending.

        Meanwhile, the EPA notified me that I could not complete the Ark without filing an environmental impact statement on your proposed flood. They didn't take very kindly to the idea that they had no jurisdiction over the conduct of the Creator of the Universe.

        Then, the Army Corps of Engineers demanded a map of the proposed flood plain. I sent them a globe.

        Right now, I am trying to resolve a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that I am practicing discrimination by not taking atheists aboard.

        The IRS has seized my assets, claiming that I'm building the Ark in preparation to flee the country to avoid paying taxes. I just got a notice from the state that I owe them some kind of user tax and failed to register the Ark as a 'recreational water craft'.

        And finally, the ACLU got the courts to issue an injunction against further construction of the Ark, saying that since God is flooding the earth, it's a religious event, and, therefore unconstitutional. I really don't think I can finish the Ark for another five or six years."

        Noah waited. The sky began to clear, the sun began to shine, and the seas began to calm. A rainbow arched across the sky.

        Noah looked up hopefully. "You mean you're not going to destroy the earth, Lord?"

        "No," He said sadly. "I don't have to. The government already has."
    • Re:Where's the fire? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by vux984 (928602) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:18PM (#24833701)

      Wow. Why aren't we in the US trying to do this?

      The US would be too afraid of terrorists attacking it to risk building it.

      We used to be so worried about the Communists beating us. But now it's like we don't even care. Where's the fire?

      Too busy watching American Idol while the economy tanks. ;)

      Seriously though, I think the biggest reason is that there isn't anyone to build it. Its too much money and too much risk of not being profitable enough or at all, and would require too much cooperation from the state and federal government (in terms of permits, granting rights of way to lay track etc) for private enterprise to attempt it.

      Meanwhile the current political environment would make it impossible for the government to do a major project like this on its own. Critics on every side would dominate the debate shouting their political position that it should be privatized (republican), that its fiscally irresponsible, that the money should go towards schools, or health care (democrat) or that if the government has this kind of scratch lying around they should be reducing taxes (libertarian) instead of building world class projects like this.

    • by johannesg (664142)

      Wow. Why aren't we in the US trying to do this? We used to be so worried about the Communists beating us. But now it's like we don't even care. Where's the fire?

      I'd say because neither Beijing nor Shanghai are in the US, so there is really not much point to the US spending money on such a line...

    • A: Because in the US alone there's about 3200 train accidents a year... no matter how fast they're moving.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dannkape (1195229)
        In France, where still hasn't been a single fatal accident with high speed trains, on high speed tracks. (The TGV has been involved in fatal accidents, but that has been while running on regular tracks, at regular speeds.)

        Germany on the other hand had one nasty accident when they took a shortcut to passenger comfort without properly testing the solution first. (They put some extra rubber and steel on the wheels to reduce vibrations, but it came off derailing half the train)
    • by phayes (202222)
      Because the USA is not in the 19th century anymore, that's why. The US no longer has the ability/will to expropriate with no recourse the people that are currently living/farming on the land needed to build new high speed trains anywhere where the population density is high enough to make a high speed train viable. Back in the 19th century we did [wikipedia.org], but most people consider it a good thing that abuse of power in this manner is no longer socially acceptable. China often pretexts that it should be able to make
    • by denzacar (181829) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:50PM (#24833995) Journal

      Between Las Vegas and Disneyland. [slashdot.org]

      It is kinda scary to think that while "Oh_so_EVIL_communist_China" builds an express line between its capitol and its financial center, US is building what is essentially a carnival ride between the Pleasure Island [wikipedia.org] and Sin City.

      • It is kinda scary to think that while "Oh_so_EVIL_communist_China" builds an express line between its capitol and its financial center, US is building what is essentially a carnival ride between the Pleasure Island and Sin City.

        It sure sounds scary when you treat it like a sound bite. It's even scarier that you couldn't be bothered to look at reality and realize that US capitol and financial center are already linked by a heavily used train with a travel time around three hours.

        • Not exactly high-speed though. It may technically be a high-speed train since the max-speed is at some 250 kph, but the average speed of the Acela is less than our so called "high-speed" trains in Sweden (X2000) that can do 200 kph max.

          For real high-speed trains, see TGV and Shinkansen.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jabithew (1340853)

        It is kinda scary to think that while "Oh_so_EVIL_communist_China" builds an express line between its capitol and its financial center, US is building what is essentially a carnival ride between the Pleasure Island [wikipedia.org] and Sin City.

        Firstly, China hasn't been communist for a while. It's closest now to Italian Fascism out of anything, only with a bit more competition.

        Secondly, Acela Express. [wikipedia.org] It might not be as shiny as a 380kmph white elephant, but it was cheaper to build and it functions well enough (in that it beats flying).

    • Public transportation is percieved as being rather left-wing in the US (as it infringes on our freedoms in a way that I'm not remotely smart enough to adequately explain or understand)

      For Christ sake, we don't even have buses, let alone trains in most cities. There are a few decent commuter rail systems (NJTransit, MBTA, DC Metro, Metro-North), but not much else, and they don't use the same ticketing system as Amtrak, limiting their usefulness on long-distance journeys. Amtrak is also too slow, expensive,

    • Because everybody has tried doing this and it has failed for everybody.

      I for one am waiting for a Detroit-Quebec City-New York city maglev with stops at big cities in between, or more realistically, a SF/LA one. But it's not likely to happen, for all the reasons the other posters have said.

      We find difficulty in seeing that the shuttle was definately worth it. How are people going to react to a "hundred-billion-dollar-train"?...

      Not to mention, how are you going to power this, and make sure it stays powered?

    • It's clearly unreasonable for Taggert Transcontinental to try to compete with the Chinese, who have such an advantage in human labor costs. The only way this could be possible is if a large government subsidy was given, especially given these trying national times. Besides we couldn't possibly compete with them; they're getting all their steel from Chinese factories, who clearly are too competitive*. We should get the UN involved and stop this outrageous, unfair progress. It's making us look bad and we can'

  • Amtrak (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Monday September 01, 2008 @02:58PM (#24833501)

    ...achieving speeds up to 380 km/h and cutting the travel time between the two cities from the current ten hours to under five...

    I wonder whether officials at United States' AMTRAK are reading this. I saddens me that plans for high speed commuting on AMTRAK's rails was shelved a few years ago. REsult? Top speed on AMTRAK's rails is 180 KM/hr and only on some routes.

    These officials (at AMTRAK) are more interested in their allowances and benefits instead of doing what is for the common good. In the meantime, AMTRAK's technology is still stuck in the seventies as the Asians led by the Chinese "overtake" us.

    No wonder that we in these United States will cease to be of any consequence on world matters as internet traffic heads to Europe and more relevant innovation comes from Asia. I am really afraid for the generation that will come after ours.

    • Re:Amtrak (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ijustam (1127015) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:10PM (#24833607) Journal

      ...or there's no profit to be made in something thats more expensive and longer than driving?

      From Indianapolis to Chicago, it'd cost me anywhere from $10-20 to take the train. I'd also have to be on the train at 5:30 in the morning. The train takes _at least_ 4 hours.

      Or I can drive to Chicago, which takes at least an hour less, for only $10 more (185 miles at 25 miles per gallon, at roughly $4/gallon) and I can leave at my leisure.

      Amtrak simply does not have the infrastructure for such an endeavor. A good chunk of Amtrak's routes are owned by freight companies; Amtrak simply pays to use them. So unless you're willing to assume that cost as the passenger to lay thousands of miles of private track, that's not going to happen since that cost would probably make ticket prices compete with airline prices, but to what benefit? Flying would still be faster. The only thing you would save is the hassle of airline security (which is a good enough reason for me, to be honest).

      • Re:Amtrak (Score:5, Informative)

        by FredMenace (835698) on Monday September 01, 2008 @04:15PM (#24834231)
        True, when we spend less than perhaps 5% as much on rail infrastructure as we do on highways, it stands to reason that the roads may win in some instances.

        But rail is far more cost-effective to build than roads - one pair of tracks can carry the same traffic as a 6-8 lane highway, which is far more costly to construct and maintain, and requires much more land. (Not to mention all the parking lots and feeder roads.)

        Trains can also run much faster (nobody is talking about people driving 100-200mph, and trains can run full speed even during commute hours when highways are slowed to a standstill). Trains use much less energy (less rolling resistance and aerodynamic resistance, for starters), emit far less pollution (using less energy, and often electrically powered), cost less to operate and maintain, and are far safer.

        The only thing they lack is door-to-door convenience and arbitrary schedules. (But is there really much benefit if you're stuck in traffic and have to pay $20 for parking? On the other hand, how about letting you read or do work or sleep while on the train?) How much are we willing to pay, in dollars, pollution, wasted time, and reliance on foreign oil, for that (sometimes) convenience?

        Trains also have similar benefits over airplanes for relatively short trips (anything less than about 2-4 hours, depending on the situation).

        Of course, these are all THEORETICAL benefits, which are only realized if we actually make the proper investments. Since we in the USA have spent the last 75 years trying to kill trains rather than investing in them, we only rarely get to experience these benefits.

        The trains we have these days are generally slow, go to only a few places, run on very limited schedules, are not particularly clean or comfortable, and have few on-board ameneties. And since they don't benefit from the same level of taxpayer support as roads do, more of their costs are passed on to the passenger, so they don't seem to have as much cost advantage to the end user.
      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        That's the whole problem: if rail were done properly in this country, it wouldn't take you 4 hours to travel between Indianapolis and Chicago by rail, it'd take 1-2 hours. Remember, we're talking about "high speed" rails here; the one in China is supposed to go 236 mph. That's about half the speed of a typical jet, and it doesn't have to deal with all the security hassles, taxiing, flying in circles waiting for runways to clear, etc. If we had trains that fast crisscrossing the USA, there'd be a lot less

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by FredMenace (835698)
      The Acela express covers 734 km (456 mi) from Washington DC - New York - Boston, and runs up to 240 kph (150 mph) on the Boston-NY leg.

      Travel times (including stops) -
      Boston-NY: 3.5 hours
      NY-DC: 2.75 hours
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FredMenace (835698)
      Amtrak may not be (but how could they, with the derision with which Congress tends to treat them, and their budgets?), but see, for instance:

      http://www.sehsr.org/ [sehsr.org]
      http://www.midwesthsr.org/ [midwesthsr.org]
      http://www.thsrtc.com/ [thsrtc.com]
      http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/ [ca.gov]
    • AMTRAK's technology is still stuck in the seventies as the Asians led by the Chinese "overtake" us.

      Wow. What an ignorant comment. I mean, truly ignorant. The Japanese (you know, those Asians) have had the truly excellent bullet train for years. They have long since overtaken the US in terms of quality train service. Then again, so have the Europeans. Even the legendary train delay^Wservice of the UK is better. Actually, it's not that bad in England at the moment.

    • by jlarocco (851450)

      Top speed on AMTRAK's rails is 180 KM/hr and only on some routes.

      Not that it matters. Top speed when you run out of gas [latimes.com] is zero anyway.

  • C'mon, California (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hackshack (218460) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:01PM (#24833529)
    This just makes me wonder where California's planned high-speed rail [ca.gov] initiative is actually going. Imagine, 2-1/2 hours from SF to LA, but it seems to be a stuck project!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It isn't stuck, it will be on your november CA ballot as Prop 1/1A

    • but it seems to be a stuck project!

      So you're saying that it's possibly been...... terminated?

  • the fire is in war (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lambosv21 (1331897) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:04PM (#24833559)
    its incredible to look at projects like these in comparison to the hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on war instead. the best comparison I can draw is the relatively "small" investment a few billionaires began in revitalizing downtown Los Angeles. I drive down there and in just a few years there are refurbished buildings and the new nokia center just to start. One can actually walk around downtown (at least a section) without seeing old buildings everywhere. if we could have just invested a fraction of what we have spent on this war our country could be competing in projects like these.
    • by FooGoo (98336)

      I disagree....war is an investment. The technology developed though war throughout human history has benefited all of us. From improved communications, water filtration, and solar power in the third world to the improved medical, manufacturing, production, and design processes of the first world.

      For good or bad war has always been the great motivator of the human race. Wars costs billions of dollars but so do disease epidemics, natural disasters, and other challenges that fast large groups of people. We lea

      • by zoogies (879569)

        Ah, I see. So our invasion of Iraq...was to improve our living conditions. That makes me feel much better.

        You make a good point - historically, war has been the great motivator; the 'fire', if you will.

        But I don't agree that the people who start wars view it as an 'investment.' Those people don't sit back and think, "Well, we need some new technology. Let's start a war!" (at least, I hope not). Spurring technology development has been a side effect of it, done because war creates the urgency, the necessity,

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Locklin (1074657)

        Somehow I don't think it's cost effective (leaving out the whole humanitarian costs like thousands of dead people):

        Iraq War: $550 billion [wikipedia.org]
        NSF Budget for same period: $28.6 Billion [nsf.gov]

        Which do you think is the better investment?

      • by Dunbal (464142) on Monday September 01, 2008 @04:17PM (#24834249)

        I disagree....war is an investment. The technology developed though war throughout human history has benefited all of us.

              Not quite sure I agree with you there. There's only a technological race when you're at war with an enemy who is at or near your technological level. Somehow I don't see UAV's and IED-proof light armored vehicles benefiting mankind as a whole. The "advances" and "research" in the current war(s) seem to be very directed at surveillance, self defense and killing people remotely.

              There's also the idea of diminishing returns. Before the world wars science was just about ready to explode all on its own anyway. Huge fields of potential knowledge were on the brink of being discovered - from biology and antibiotics, which allowed surgeons (together with their new-found anesthetics) to become bolder and bolder in experimental techniques to advance the field of medicine, to the whole plastics industry, to the need for sophisticated computing devices to crack enemy codes or do the tedious math required to predict the results of nuclear fission reactions.

              Nowadays we are full of plastics, we have supercomputers, and our rate of advance has slowed somewhat as we explore entirely new fields - molecular biology, nanotechnology, etc. Yes we will probably make another "quantum leap" in terms of knowledge in these fields, and our current fields of knowledge will advance incrementally, but it's not necessarily war that will trigger it this time. There's no pressing need to build a "more efficient transistor before the enemy gets one".

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by maglor_83 (856254)

          Somehow I don't see UAV's and IED-proof light armored vehicles benefiting mankind as a whole.

          UAVs are being used to track bushfires in California [slashdot.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mollymoo (202721)
        While war does indeed stimulate technology that's really not a good enough reason to kill hundreds of thousands of people. If you did want to start a war in order to boost technological progress, you should start a war with a technologically advanced enemy power, not invade random desert nations with a feeble military.
    • by Dunbal (464142)

      The problem isn't just the war, it's the whole American philosophy that values the rights of the "spotted owl", the individual, the crackpot-theory-of-the month over the potential gains to be reaped for the population as a whole.

      If you're going to start ANY major project in the US get ready for months of red tape, environmental impact studies, lawsuits from various activist groups ranging from those who are fighting to "save" a rare breed of earthworm to those who don't like the aes

  • It is quite pathetic that the United States is behind nearly every other advanced country in developing advanced public transportation systems. The state of public transportation in many parts of the country is simply awful. While we know we need to conserve and every time we turn the ignition on the car we lurch closer to total economic peak oil disaster and climate chaos, the US is unable to change its wasteful, gas guzzling drive 20 miles to work ways. Instead of doing the environmentally responsible thi

  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:16PM (#24833675)

    Non stop between cities.

    If you start adding stops in between the two end points, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference what the top speed is, the average speed will suck badly.

     

  • by superyanthrax (835242) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:33PM (#24833835)
    There is already one of these in operation between Beijing and Tianjin, operating at a top-speed of 350 km/h, which is apparently already a record.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing-Tianjin_high-speed_rail [wikipedia.org]
  • The train from Shanghai to the airport (Pudong?) is already faster. It does over 400 KpH.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ChoboMog (917656)
      They said conventional rail, so one with wheels and tracks. The maglev is faster (431km/h), and pretty cool to ride, but its just floating with no wheels or any contact with the monorail.
  • Airlines (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ancil (622971) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:57PM (#24834059)
    Speed: There is a very narrow range of trip lengths for which high-speed rail makes sense.

    Suppose this train actually achieves the stated 236 miles per hour. Without making any stops at all, you're still looking at about 13 hours to get from New York to San Francisco. With five or six stops (that's not even one per state), it would approach 20 hours. This is a 6-hour flight. Anywhere farther than 600 miles is going to be faster by air.

    For trips less than 250 miles, it's just not worth the hassle of getting to a major rail hub, parking your car (or taking transit and transfering), waiting to board the train, arriving at your destination with no ground transport and having to rent a car, etc.. It's easier to just jump in your car and drive there. Cheaper, too.

    Those are best-case scenarios. In reality, the Acela takes 8 hours to get from Boston to Washington, DC -- a flight I've made in about an hour and fifteen minutes.

    Cost: Anyone with $50 or $100 million can start their own airline, leasing a few planes and plying low-volume routes to make money for expansion.

    Good luck getting a high-speed rail built for less than $50 billion. With that kind of money, you could outright buy 40 or 50 brand-new airliners and hire people to fly them. That lets you provide service to a lot more than just two cities.

    Capacity: It would take over a decade and untold billions of dollars to build a track. That's ignoring all the right-of-way and environmental headaches. Once built, the track can't exactly be picked up and moved if peoples' travel habits change. Air routes change all the time, based on passenger demand.

    Airspace is already there, and it's free. The only real limit on capacity is landing slots, and big airports like LAX can land over a thousand flights a day.

    Security: In flight, the only external threat to an airliner would be from ground-to-air missiles. Those aren't exactly easy to come by. You can't make one in your tool shed. Airliners are very delicate, but they're also very hard to reach, six miles above ground and moving along at mach 0.8..

    High-speed rails travel a fixed route at predictable times. You could destroy one pretty easily using an IED. Even a small fuel-fertilizer bomb would be sufficient -- moving at hundreds of miles per hour, anything which gets the train slightly off-kilter is going to cause massive casualties. Patrolling thousands and thousands of miles of rail, 24 hours a day, is impractical and expensive.
    • Re:Airlines (Score:4, Insightful)

      by serviscope_minor (664417) on Monday September 01, 2008 @04:11PM (#24834189) Journal

      Speed: There is a very narrow range of trip lengths for which high-speed rail makes sense.

      Depends on where you live:

      For trips less than 250 miles, it's just not worth the hassle of getting to a major rail hub, parking your car (or taking transit and transfering), waiting to board the train, arriving at your destination with no ground transport and having to rent a car, etc.. It's easier to just jump in your car and drive there.

      If you already have local rail infrastructure, or parking in the city is difficult, then rail is a big win. To pick an extreme example, you suggest that it's easier to go by car for journeys less than 250 miles. It's 211 miles from London to Paris. In Europe, where towns are smaller, more crowded, parking is difficult, and public transport infrastructure exists, it's worth going by train.

      As for cheaper, well, that's a problem. The problem is that the roads receive massive subsidies, so they're free to use. Not much way around that, except to give comparable subsidies to rail too. ...cost...

      Yeah, it's expensive. Sufficiently so that only a government is large enough to finiance something the size of a rail or road network.

      Security: In flight, the only external threat to an airliner would be from ground-to-air missiles. Those aren't exactly easy to come by. You can't make one in your tool shed. Airliners are very delicate, but they're also very hard to reach, six miles above ground and moving along at mach 0.8.. High-speed rails travel a fixed route at predictable times. You could destroy one pretty easily using an IED. Even a small fuel-fertilizer bomb would be sufficient -- moving at hundreds of miles per hour, anything which gets the train slightly off-kilter is going to cause massive casualties. Patrolling thousands and thousands of miles of rail, 24 hours a day, is impractical and expensive.

      Well, no. Firstly, airliners are suprising resilliant, they've survided anti-aircraft missile hits. Secondly, there have been accidents involving high speed trains. They look like a real mess, but the number of deaths is usually very low. Besides, if they were such an easy target, then why have they not been targeted already?

      • by mollymoo (202721)
        Al Quaeda have bombed trains in Madrid and London. Oh, but they weren't high speed trains, so that's irrelevant I guess.
        • Oh, but they weren't high speed trains, so that's irrelevant I guess.

          Yes, if you bothered to read the thread, you would have figured out that your comment is completely irrelevant.

          • by mollymoo (202721)

            I did read the thread. I was being sarcastic. Here's the non-sarcastic version:

            Trains are trains. They've already bombed trains. You're a fucking douchebag for making a meaningless distinction.

    • by smoker2 (750216)
      And this is why you're fucked - many reasons NOT to do something, but ironically every argument you state has an equal and opposite argument against air travel. Peoples travel habits are related to the PLACES they go. Not to the method. An East West line might take 13 hours, but then you wouldn't need a hotel before work. You could get to the centre of the city instead of hiring a car or taxi. 13 hours with a bed, a tv, and WiFi, not to mention the peace and quiet.
      You talk about threats from bombs and the l
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Goonie (8651)

      Those are best-case scenarios. In reality, the Acela takes 8 hours to get from Boston to Washington, DC -- a flight I've made in about an hour and fifteen minutes.

      Yes, the Acela is crap compared to European high-speed rail. But that flight time is completely misleading. I do a comparable flight sometimes. I live near downtown Melbourne, Australia, and fly up for work in downtown Sydney, Australia. The flight is one hour, 30 minutes. Even without checked baggage, it takes four hours door-to-door.

  • Depressing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wellington Grey (942717) on Monday September 01, 2008 @03:59PM (#24834083) Homepage Journal
    I'm very glad for China, but at the same time depressed. When I was younger, I used to think of the US as being a place that made THE FUTURE happen. I wanted the Internet come into being and if that wasn't THE FUTURE I didn't know what was. Now it seems feels like the US it focused on stasis. I can only hope now that the Chinese let us have some table scraps from their engineering marvels.

    -Grey [silverclipboard.com]
    • by Tweenk (1274968)

      Ponitless war still fought for domestic political reasons -> lots of resources wasted or tied up -> not much interesting going on.

    • I'm very glad for China, but at the same time depressed. When I was younger, I used to think of the US as being a place that made THE FUTURE happen. I wanted the Internet come into being and if that wasn't THE FUTURE I didn't know what was. Now it seems feels like the US it focused on stasis. I can only hope now that the Chinese let us have some table scraps from their engineering marvels.

      -Grey [silverclipboard.com]

      Engineering marvels?

      You mean this engineering marvel [autoblog.com]?

      Or how about this one [pocket-lint.co.uk]?

      Though, I'll give them credit where it's due, the Olympic venues of the birds nest and water cube were pretty awesome.

  • by ElGanzoLoco (642888) on Monday September 01, 2008 @07:02PM (#24835827) Homepage

    The record on rail, 574 km/h, belongs to the [slashdot.org]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGV_world_speed_record#Record_of_2007 [wikipedia.org] . Maglevs go faster but compete in a different category :)

    However, the fastest the TGV can go in commercial operation is around 320 km/h, so the Chinese train will top it by some 40 km/h. Kudos to the engineers!

  • by pmontra (738736) on Monday September 01, 2008 @07:07PM (#24835881) Homepage
    Is it an application of Ruby on Rails or is it coded in Assembly to be that fast?
  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Monday September 01, 2008 @07:52PM (#24836191)

    While this sounds like a great idea in practice, the cost of maintaining the overhead wiring, steel rails and rolling stock for such a high-speed train will border on exorbitant.

    Remember, above 300 km/h, there are serious engineering issues of physical wear from the contacts of the overhead wiring with the pantographs on the train and the steel wheels and steel rail. Unless the Chinese government spends the type of money needed to properly maintain these equipment, it could end up being a serious maintenance nightmare (I can imagine how much SNCF is spending to maintain the TGV system).

  • Examples to compare (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hebetsubeach (786552) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @12:50AM (#24838547)

    Between Seattle and Portland, 180 miles apart, there are 4 trains each way each day and the trip is 3 hours 10 minutes to 3 hours 30 minutes. There are six stops during the trip. It can be longer if the drawbridge on the Columbia happens to go up and your train has to wait for it, or if there is some freight rail traffic that impedes the passenger train. In the USA, boat traffic has the right of way over rail and if a cargo ship carrying woodchips or cow dung or whatever wants to go under the bridge when a scheduled passenger train would cross, the bridge opens and the scheduled passenger train must wait. This can take 20 to 30 minutes. One time when this happened the bridge got stuck open and it took nearly an hour to get it closed again.

    Between Hakata (Fukuoka) and Hiroshima, Japan, 175 miles apart, and cities of similar size to Seattle and Portland, there nearly 100 high-speed trains going each way every day and the trip takes as little as an hour and five minutes. Depending on the train there can be as little as one stop in between.

    The trains provide city center to city center service. In Japan it is feasible to plan business trips between cities this far apart that take place in as little over three hours; a bit over an hour there, an hour meeting, a bit over an hour back. In the US such a trip is impossible. Even if you fly, by the time you drive or take a cab out to the airport, go through security, fly the short distance and then get into town from the airport, you've wasted far more time.

    I use this example from time to time as most people who live in the US have no idea how backward the US can be in certain areas.

    For example, one can take a 6AM train from Hakata (Fukuoka) and be in Hiroshima at 7:05AM. The earliest train out of Seattle leaves at 7:30 and doesn't arrive until 11AM (if the train is on time, which it usually isn't). The next train out of Seattle for Portland doesn't leave until 11:20AM. Between 6AM and 11:20AM, there are 28 trains leaving Hakata (Fukuoka) for Hiroshima.

    Want to meet for a business lunch in Hiroshima? Take the 10:30AM train and you'll be there at 11:36AM, take the 10:39AM train and be there at 11:49AM, or take the 11:00AM train and get there are 12:05PM.

    High speed rail makes a world of difference and is so convenient. There are many distances between cities in the US where having such service would radically change how business is done and how people travel.

    Alaska Air offers 20 flights between Seattle and Portland. The travel time is 50 minutes, not much better than the train time between Fukuoka and Hiroshima. The difference is that when you step off the train you are downtown. When you get off the plane, you still have a long trip into town. Having fast, dependable train service between cities would make life much easier in the US.

    • I use this example from time to time as most people who live in the US have no idea how backward the US can be in certain areas.

      You've got that all wrong! You need to listen to more prop^H^H^H^Hcommercials. Repeat after me:

      Cars good! (Nevermind the traffic jams and all the other problems LALALALALA!!)

      Planes good! (Only if you're not on THE LIST, citizen!)

      Trains bad! Only communists and poor people use trains! You don't want to be a communist or a poor person, do you?!

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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