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Transportation Technology

China Debuts the World's Fastest Train 491

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the us-falls-behind-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes "China unveiled their new high speed train that clocks in at an average of 217 mph. China's new rail service travels through 20 cities along its route, connecting central China and less developed regions to the larger and more industrial Pearl River Delhi. Seimens, Bombardier and Alstom worked together to design and build this feat of modern transportation, which topped out at a whopping 245mph (394km/h) during trial runs earlier in December."
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China Debuts the World's Fastest Train

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  • Pearl River Delta?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by l2718 (514756) on Monday December 28, 2009 @03:56PM (#30574844)
    Delhi is in India.
    • by eln (21727) on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:02PM (#30574900) Homepage
      No no, they mean the Pearl River Deli. It's on the East Side, and their pastrami on rye is to die for. I don't know how they got a train to go there all the way from China, but it sounds like I'm going to have to start getting my lunch earlier to beat the rush!
      • by OzPeter (195038)

        No no, they mean the Pearl River Deli. It's on the East Side

        Not being from NYC I can't rightly tell what part of NY this is meant to be called, but there is a town called "Perl River", and yes, the have Deli's

        Pearl River Deli [google.com]

        Anyone ever eaten at one of these???

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        I think this thread is the one where "WOOSH!" is completely applicable!

        It seems a sad irony that Japan, a tiny country with little land mass has the world's fastest trains, while the US and its huge land mass seemingly has the world's slowest.

        Why do the Europeans* have better roads and faster trains than us? Maybe there's something to that "socialism" after all!

        *yes, I realise that Japan isn't in Europe, smartass.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by vegiVamp (518171)
          > *yes, I realise that Japan isn't in Europe, smartass.

          On the other hand, you do not seem to realise that Japan and China are quite distinct entities, smartass.
    • by sconeu (64226)

      The river got outsourced.

  • by the_g_cat (821331) on Monday December 28, 2009 @03:58PM (#30574864) Homepage
    Siemens, not Seimens...
  • by Viol8 (599362) on Monday December 28, 2009 @03:59PM (#30574870)

    The french managed 357mph (yes three hundred) with a lightly modified TGV in 2007 (google it).

    • by l2718 (514756) on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:02PM (#30574896)
      Yes, but the maximum speed is largely irrelevant. What matters to the travelling public is the average speed -- and this train is faster than the TGV in that regard.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by BESTouff (531293)
        Yes, the commercial speed of the TGV is 200mph, quite lower.

        That said, the TGV is way older (research started in the sixties, first commercial run in 1981) and had time to be debugged to death. I wouldn't put my ass in that Chinese train before a few years.

      • Well, the Chinese number is the maximum speed too. So your point is invalid.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Though average speed is more about the track. I guess it's not inconceivable to have less curves and longer distances between stations in China.

      • by rossdee (243626)

        In a claim for 'worlds fastest' the maximum speed is relevant. (as long as its timed both ways.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DeadPixels (1391907)
      BBC article is here [bbc.co.uk]. Unfortunately, the article doesn't discuss whether or not this sort of train would actually be useful for passenger service or if the technology still needed some work. I would wager that the Chinese train is probably the fastest commercial (conventional rail) train.
    • There is some difference between setting a speed record once and running a regular train service which is actually used by people on a daily basis.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jonbryce (703250)

      I was about to accuse you of being a NASA employee, but it appears you are right.
      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/03/fastest_train_attempt/ [theregister.co.uk]

      I think this means the fastest regular timetabled train service rather than the fastest a train has ever travelled, because quite a few trains have broken the 400 km/h barrier in test runs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by WinPimp2K (301497)

      But the real questions is:

      how fast will it run Ruby (on rails)?

  • by XopherMV (575514) * on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:03PM (#30574906) Journal
    It seems to me that when China has some of the best developed infrastructure in the world, it really can't be considered a developing country any more. It is developed. Sure, maybe not all areas of China are fully developed, but you could state the same thing about any country, including the US.
    • by khallow (566160) on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:11PM (#30575008)
      OTOH, most countries have some part, perhaps a very small one, that has technology, local infrastructure, and such equivalent or better than the average in the developed world. Should we call every country "developed" as a result?
    • by Gerafix (1028986)
      That's like going to Egypt and visiting Cairo and then saying, "Well Africa is developed, maybe not some parts..."
      • by kidgenius (704962)
        Go to any country and you will find parts that are "not developed"
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by FooMasterZero (515781)
        Isn't Africa technically a continent not a country?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Gerafix (1028986)
          Yeah, sorry. I don't have maps and my education such as like South Africa and the Iraq has not build up yet.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Hurricane78 (562437)

          It is, but I think the point here was to show how big the gradient is.

          In the mountain areas of China it’s still pretty close to caveman land.
          Just as in the US. ;))

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeian (409916)

      But if they give up their "developing country" status, they can't play that card in demanding concessions from developed countries any more.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:36PM (#30575318)

      Uh, 90%+ of their population are dirt farmers. Have you ever been to China? In a vast majority of the country it's literally like stepping back in time to the dark ages.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wisty (1335733)

        It's nowhere near 90%. Maybe 60%. I think you are thinking of Laos...

        Anyway, even in the cities, where people live pretty well, the median income (not mean, but median) is still about 500 to 1000 RMB / month (location dependent). 4k to 7k a year.

        You can live OK on that, but middle class people don't aspire to own Mercedes, and make do with a Toyota sedan. They aspire to own a QQ car (a $5,000 Chinese compact), and make do with a scooter.

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:57PM (#30575528)

      It seems to me that when China has some of the best developed infrastructure in the world, it really can't be considered a developing country any more. It is developed. Sure, maybe not all areas of China are fully developed, but you could state the same thing about any country, including the US.

      The opposite of a developing nation, like China, is not developed, as in film, but a decaying nation, like the USA.

      Once China has a couple unmaintained bridge collapses, maybe a few regional power failures, some abandoned cities like Detroit, then they will no longer be a developing nation.

    • by prefec2 (875483) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:01PM (#30578218)

      No you cannot. For example in Western-Europe especially in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland or Austria the countries are very well "developed". In Germany you can get to a highway (Autobahn) in a 50 km radius. Also most towns are accessible by train. And every big city is connected to others on an hourly schedule (with fast trains) and additional local trains.

  • Nice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:03PM (#30574912) Journal
    Averaging 217 mph over a distance of 663 miles, supposedly connecting 20 cities... according to TFA, a trip of under three hours...

    Just how much time are they allowing for deceleration and acceleration between stops? Or is it pretty much end-to-end with multiple stops near the origin and destination?

    Anyway, there's little doubt in my mind that this is overkill, more a demonstration of technical capability and will to spend than anything else. But damn, I'd like to have a network of these in the US to replace our aging and slow rail passenger rail system. At the very least, they are much more energy efficient than air travel.

    One picky point with TFA... it suggests that the fast travel times of a high-speed rail network would not come with the security overhead of air travel. I'm not so sure about that.
    • Re:Nice (Score:5, Funny)

      by jimbobborg (128330) on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:13PM (#30575036)

      It's China, they just throw the people off the train as they pass their station.

    • by pclminion (145572)

      Averaging 217 mph over a distance of 663 miles, supposedly connecting 20 cities... according to TFA, a trip of under three hours...

      It just isn't possible. Assuming that, at each city, you have 3 minutes of deceleration, a stop time of 10 minutes, and 5 minutes of acceleration, that's 18*20 = 360 minutes, or 6 hours. That doesn't even include time at full speed. Okay, let's be insane and decelerate in only 1 minute and accelerate in 2 and stop for only 3 minutes, that's now two hours, leaving you one hour

    • One picky point with TFA... it suggests that the fast travel times of a high-speed rail network would not come with the security overhead of air travel. I'm not so sure about that.

      Why do you think rail would have the same security overhead? Last time I used Amtrak there was no security at all. It was a very refreshing departure from what I was used to with air travel.

  • 56 trains a day (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:15PM (#30575056) Homepage

    Here's a better version of the story. [ft.com] This is a big deal. They're running 56 trains a day on that route. They're also the longest high speed trains running. So this is a high-volume people mover. Plans call for another 11,000 Km of high speed rail by 2012. That's only two years away.

    Some of this is a consequence of the financial troubles and low interest rates in the US. The government of China had been putting excess cash into U.S. Treasury bills, but about a year ago they stopped buying more US debt and started spending on infrastructure and resources. China has been buying up mines and farms around the world to secure supplies of raw materials and food, while beefing up their infrastructure at home.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:22PM (#30575148) Journal

    The US and the whole western world have almost completely outsourced their whole production and with it, the technology, to China. When I visited the various Smithsonian museums, just for shits and giggles I asked at the souvenir shops if they had a single item that wasn't made in China. I repeated this little game in various museums. Try as they may, the shopkeepers weren't able to find a single fucking item that wasn't Made in China. Not one. This just to illustrate you the magnitude of production in China, and the magnitude of how much the west has given up. The Chinese aren't idiots; they learn and are about to surpass the west in many technological areas.

    • There is a difference between outsourcing cheap toys and souvenirs and outsourcing "technology." You claim the latter and then proceeded to talk only about the former, which is something we all know about. Not that outsourcing manufacturing is ideal, but "technology" at least is still something that is largely created in Western countries and Japan.
      • by Eevee (535658) on Monday December 28, 2009 @05:07PM (#30575654)
        Don't kid yourself. People used to say the same thing about Japan.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Guppy (12314)

          Don't kid yourself. People used to say the same thing about Japan.

          And increasingly are saying similar things about South Korea and Taiwan as well.

          In China's case though, the country will likely straddle both high and low end segments. The richer coastal regions will continue to climb the value lander, while low-end manufacturing probably will be pushed into the poorer interior, where labor will remain cheap enough to sustain it for some time.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Monday December 28, 2009 @04:36PM (#30575310)

    If trains can travel that fast safely. Then it seems we could cut down air traffic considerably. NYC to Atalanta is only about 800 miles, if I could get there by train in four hours, a airplane would offer no time advantage.

    If the difference in fuel efficiency is considerable, then maybe the US should consider building something like that?

    • by TheEvilOverlord (684773) on Monday December 28, 2009 @05:14PM (#30575748) Journal

      The trouble is a project of that size usually requires some level of state/federal organisation or funding to secure the necessary investment from private funding and the power to buy the land. Which in the USA seems to cause foaming at the mouth and long rants about the evils of communism.

      (I'm assuming here a new high speed railway would require a new less bendy track than already exists)

  • by argmanah (616458) * <{moc.oohay} {ta} {hanamgra}> on Monday December 28, 2009 @05:03PM (#30575588)
    If you look at China's achievements, they are mainly construction achievements. They build massive skyscrapers (Shanghai for example, already has a 100 story building, and is in the middle of constructing a 128 story one). Any Chinese citizen living in a major city in China will brag about their city's skyscrapers, bridges, tunnels, subways, railways, etc. And, having visited a lot of those cities, I will admit they are really impressive.

    The primary reason for this though, is that China is taking the massive amount of money flowing into the country and they're choosing to spend it on improving the economy through public works projects. Building skyscrapers, subways, etc. require lots of unskilled manpower, something that China has in abundance. Any problem, like digging a hole, laying pipe, or other manual labor tasks, that can be accomplished in greater scale by simply throwing raw manpower at it.... well, China is unsurpassed in its ability to throw raw manpower at something.

    Why can infrastructure like this not be built in the U.S.? Because we don't have 300 million unskilled laborers who will work their ass off for a few bucks a day. We don't have a government that has the authority to just displace hundreds of people in order to build a subway station without going through a lot of red tape. In order to keep up with China in this area, we'd have to give up a lot of the values we treasure for the sake of progress, which is something most of us here on ./. wouldn't do.

    You can like or hate the policies in China all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that their massive overpopulation of unskilled labor is getting employed and their infrastructure is developing extremely fast.
    • by haruchai (17472) on Monday December 28, 2009 @06:06PM (#30576358)

      Americans used to value hard work for an honest day's pay. And you have millions who don't work at all.
      I agree that China's authoritarian government and a large population has its advantages but it also has
      downsides, which the US doesn't have.

      It's time for Americans to stop bitching and whining - stand up, think for yourselves and tape your assholes
      shut so the moneyed interests can stop blowing smoke up them.

      It's not too late to reverse the slide of the American Dream - but the clock is ticking and time is fast running out.

  • Why not in the US? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nsayer (86181) <[moc.ufk] [ta] [reyasn]> on Monday December 28, 2009 @05:24PM (#30575878) Homepage

    The most likely prospect for a bullet train in the United States is the vaunted California high speed rail project. And even that is going to be a tough row to hoe.

    Federal rail regulations being what they are, the only prospect for high speed rail is if the entire system is grade separated - that is, there are no at-grade crossings. Existing rights-of-way can be used, but every where out in the middle of Modesto or Coalinga where a gravel road crosses the tracks the road will either need to be cut or a bridge or tunnel built. Next, the route between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, as well as the route between Modesto and San Jose will need to be redone, because existing ROWs are not flat or straight enough for high speeds. Even existing ROWs elsewhere, such as the Caltrain ROW up the San Francisco Peninsula, may be inadequate. Caltrain runs enough trains up and down that the extra headway for high speed trains may make it necessary to quad-track that entire route - which may mean bulldozing houses and/or businesses along the line in some spots.

    All of that is bad enough, but before you can even begin thinking about turning over dirt, you need not only to write EIRs, but then have them stand up to Luddite court challenges. And then, whatever land you wind up using for the new ROW needs to be acquired - meaning that whoever owns it now needs to be paid fair market value for it (see also, 5th amendment). The Chinese government has a big advantage here - If anyone actually asks about the environmental impact of a train route, they get reeducated.

    All of this is mainly because we want high speed rail to go between places where there is demand. If you read TFA, this line is being constructed at least partially to create demand - that is, they are taking trips to nowhere in order for nowhere to wind up being a desirable destination. It's a bit like the transcontinental railroad was in the middle of the 19th century here. Nobody really wanted to go to any of the whistle stops between Sacramento and Chicago, but since the train went there, communities sprung up. But when the railroad was built, there was nothing there. Nowadays, building high speed rail from San Francisco to San Diego is a gigantic pain in the ass because the destinations are already filled in.

  • A few details (Score:5, Informative)

    by henrypijames (669281) on Monday December 28, 2009 @07:13PM (#30576952) Homepage

    Someone in my family works for Siemens as a senior member of the China High-Speed Rail project (not to be confused with the China Maglev project, for which Siemens is also a partner). We've talked about it quite often - and fairly extensively yesterday. Here are a few details:

    The technologies of all four major high-speed rail system in the world - Germany's ICE, Japan's Sinkansen, France's TGV and Canada's Bombardier (in order of overall technological advancement) - have come together in China, though rather reluctantly. When the Chinese started the project years ago, they did something very clever: Instead of picking one of the four systems (which is what people normally do), they gave all four a pilot contract each. The one showing the best result in its pilot would then be chosen as the main partner, they said, making all four competing like crazy - routinely investing more resources than they've originally planed. The Chinese are not concerned about significant waste due to incompatibility between the pilot products, since all four are building to the specs written by the Chinese.

    Now, years later, the Canadians and the French are practically washed out, even though some of their technologies have contributed to the new Chinese system. The Germans and the Japanese remain - as initially expected - the main competitors - or, reluctant partners for the Chinese. The vast majority of heavy lifting on the technological front is done by the Germans (which was also expected, since even the Japanese system was originally based on German designs), but the Japanese have the advantage that their pilot has started earlier (the Chinese intentionally delayed the German pilot in order to ransom a below-value price).

    The record speed, for example, was achieved using two joined trains - of four sections each - built by Siemens in Germany and put together in China. Those are the only two German trains current available for this route. All the other trains are Japanese, and they're what people see on most new footages. But the top speed the Japanese trains (on the same route) can reach are significantly lower - about 350 km/h, or >10% less than the German record. Plus, while the German rains got to 395 km/h in standard configuration - with two tracking (active) and two tracked (passive) sections in each train - the Japanese had to cheat - using three tracking and only one tracked section in each train - in order to reach their 350 km/h.

    As someone has mentioned above, there exist a TGV speed record that's much higher still, but that's a record nobody in the industry takes seriously, because it was achieved with a totally crazy, not nearly practical configuration of train sections. It's a fake number, period.

    The bottom line is, for the original cost of one project, China has managed to get more than twice the amount worth of know-how (all legally via proper technology transfer contracts), and is now itself among the leading players of the industry. For the upcoming US high-speed rail system, the Chinese has offered a bid with a price tag 1/3 lower than anybody else...

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