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China Government The Almighty Buck Transportation Technology

China's Yearly Budget For High-Speed Rail: $100 Billion 230

An anonymous reader writes "For all of those wondering about China's massive high speed rail network, it costs some serious cash. Running high speed lines across the nation is expensive — to the tune of $100 billion dollars a year. This covers the cost to maintain the network, build it, and pay all of the staff. The problem is, corruption has reared its ugly head. The network itself has had its share of problems, with people dying as a result. There is also the problem that many of Chinese poor make so little money they can't afford to ride it. The sad fact is that so much money is being spent, no one can even keep count."
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China's Yearly Budget For High-Speed Rail: $100 Billion

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  • by tloh ( 451585 ) on Friday October 19, 2012 @11:06PM (#41712307)

    I don't know what kind of reputation "THE DIPLOMAT" has in the field of journalism, but this article is just pure crap. Despite the title, the article has almost nothing to do with high speed rail in China. Using recent problems that have come to light with the management of China's rail system, the article is actually just a mostly unflattering portrayal of the fiscal situation in China's military. A more accurate title for the article should be something like "Corruption plagues the PLA".

    An excerpt for you:

    This breakdown suggests that 100% of the PLA’s budget was diverted towards real requirements. But the parable of the railways strongly suggests that this cannot be right. How much of the PLA’s budget has been spent on retirement homes for generals in Florida, or funneled into private business ventures, or used to buy promotions? How much has been wasted on bogus capabilities that the military doesn’t really need, but whose purchase helped to line influential pockets? And how much has been spent on genuine capabilities, but capabilities whose price tag was hugely inflated so that highly-placed officials could skim off the surplus?

    There is almost nothing of value on high speed rail that has not been already revealed from other media sources.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @11:07PM (#41712311)

    "...The problem is, corruption has reared its ugly head."

    No, I'd say the problem is anyone assuming or painting a picture that a project of this magnitude did not have corruption built into it years ago before ground even broke.

    Please don't make it sound like "corruption" is some new concept that was magically birthed from a $100 billion dollar program just last week that no one has ever heard of.

  • by __aaacoe2998 ( 784063 ) on Friday October 19, 2012 @11:19PM (#41712363)
    Well, obviously, the extremely poor can't afford to ride the train. American or European poor couldn't afford to ride the train either. I just got back. The cost of a ticket from Fuzhou to Xiamen (around 2 hours at about 200 km/h) was 122 RMB. That converts to just over $20 US dollars. Extremely inexpensive, in my opinion. There are many slower trains that are much cheaper. Many migrant workers travel by train to the cities, and back home during the holidays.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @11:21PM (#41712375)
    What is it with Americans' hatred of passenger rail? It works, it's safe, cost-effective, and requires less government subsidy than highways or airport travel. It's also a hell of a lot more pleasant than flying.
  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Friday October 19, 2012 @11:33PM (#41712419)

    This is why we can't have nice things in the US. Instead of doing something and possibly wasting some on corruption we spend 6x the budget debating minutia and auditing the auditors. In the end we have nothing and spend decades accomplishing nothing for fear of doing something wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @11:41PM (#41712447)

    He never makes a reference to China, as China does not have Central Planning. I think it is just some off-topic rambling.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @12:06AM (#41712535) Journal

    Where's the scandal?! $100B divided by 2 million employees equals $50,000 per employee -- high for China, maybe, but matches the MEDIAN male income in the U.S.

    Because that money doesn't go to the workers.

  • by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @12:39AM (#41712617)

    They are building out a high speed rail network that, while capable of ferrying passengers, is not its primary purpose. China has a massive industrial infrastructure and a lot of land to cover between its mountainous and resource-rich areas and the coast, where ships pick up and transport the goods.

    You wouldn't build a high-speed network if efficient movement of freight was your primary goal. HSR is much more expensive to build and maintain, a network built primarily to move people will go different places than one built to move things like coal and petrochemicals. The US probably has the most efficient freight network in the world in terms of $/mile/ton, but if you live anywhere outside the Northeast you may as well not bother even looking at intercity rail. Unless you're a lump of coal.

    In the case of China the network links major population centers. They even blew a large fortune on a maglev line that was supposed to go from Shanghai to Beijing , though it doesn't go maglev all the way for cost reasons. They also built a line to Tibet for strategic reasons. I don't know if that's high speed, though - looking at the web site [chinatibettrain.com] it seems to average about 100 km/hr.

  • by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @12:43AM (#41712625)
    Yes, the US has a lot of rail accidents. No, hardly anybody rides the train anymore. Too damned expensive, something like 3 or 4 times the cost of a plane ticket. Kinda hard to kill someone on a train if they're not riding it.
  • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @02:06AM (#41712881)

    The problem isn't that the US is more spread out... the problem is that Europe actually HAS open space to cheaply build new rail corridors in between cities, whereas in many parts of the eastern US, you can drive a hundred miles or more without seeing anything more rural than an occasional vacant lot next to the interstate. Nebraska and Kansas might have cities surrounded by cornfields, but east of the Mississippi, our cities tend to be surrounded by hundreds of miles of single-family homes, strip malls, and office parks.

    The other problem in the US is our obsession with either keeping high-speed passenger trains 100% separate every last inch of the way, or forcing them to be capable of surviving a head-on collision at full speed with a mile-long coal train if they share tracks with a conventional train anywhere along the route... even if they'd only be running at low speed in the areas where they shared tracks (like the last mile or two into a big city station). In Europe (particularly in Germany), they built the first segment of the new high-speed tracks, and tied them in to the existing rail network at both ends... then extended them from there. In America, we piously plan to do stupid things, like build isolated segments of high-speed rail that don't directly connect to *anything*, and would force passengers to physically switch trains for years, or forever.

    HSR between ONLY Bakersfield and Corcoran, or ONLY Tampa and Orlando, is insane. Brand new HSR tracks between Bakersfield and Corcoran that continue into LA and San Francisco along the existing tracks and immediately cut an hour or two off the time it would take to make the trip at low speed, then fill in the gaps to reduce the time even more, are a great start to what's going to be an awesome HSR network someday. Ditto, for new HSR tracks between Melbourne and Orlando (eventually Tampa) that connect to the existing FEC tracks between Jacksonville and Miami.

    Engineering-wise, Acela-type trains aren't ideal... but they're actually pretty good. Their 150mph speed limit is due to Amtrak, not engineering -- Bombardier's engineers designed them to run at 186mph, and in a flat state like Florida, they could do 200mph without breaking a sweat given suitable tracks and administrative approval.

    As far as subsidies go, EVERY transportation mode is subsidized from general tax revenues. Gas taxes haven't fully supported road construction and maintenance costs since the mid-1990s (they USED to, but as gas prices have increased, the federal and state governments have gradually reduced them to levels that no longer cover 100% of costs). In 2011, Amtrak's total subsidy came out to about $4.25 per American. Nothing to really be proud of, but far from the scandalous rape some would have you believe it is... and most of THAT is for fixed costs that are basically the same regardless of whether Amtrak runs one train or ten trains through any given station per day. Under the current status quo, Amtrak can't "win" regardless of what it does. If it raises fares, it gets decried for being expensive. If it lowers fares, it gets attacked for requiring subsidies. The point is, Amtrak is Amtrak. For better or worse, right now it's all we have. In a few years, we'll have the backbone of California HSR, and FEC Railroad's new passenger service in Florida running along with Amtrak.

  • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) * on Saturday October 20, 2012 @07:13AM (#41713781) Journal

    I see a bunch of name-calling here. What I don't see is a sane reason to build high speed rail.

    That is probably just because your american and you whole way of life and cultural identity revolves around car use. It makes it far more difficult to see a world where cars simply cease to exist in their current form.

    Sorry, but every other developed country recognises that us all having our own, incredibly energy hungry tin box that goes where we tell it is just not sustainable after the oil runs out and even before then is just not the most efficient way of doing things. It might take 100 years for us to run out of oil completely but how long is it before it simply becomes too expensive for a large part of the population to afford to drive to work every day?

    You guys in the states have spent decades building cities that are just too spread out for their own good. Sooner or later you are going to have to build more cities like New York where you have an incredibly high population density. Then you can build a decent mass transit system that takes people most of the way, then lets them walk the remaining few hundred yards.

    The alternative is to cope with fuel costs that constantly spiral upward until it runs out, this has already started. Even if you build an entire countries worth of electric cars in order to power them all you would need a nuclear plant on every street corner to generate that much power.

    The simple fact is that in the decades to come mass transit and densely populated cities where most of the population live is simply going to become more and more like the only option unless someone cracks a way of getting energy for nothing without drilling it up out of the ground like we do currently.

    China might be throwing money at their high speed rail industry now, but sooner or later they might end up selling the expertise they gain to every other country in the world.

  • by Vanders ( 110092 ) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @08:44AM (#41714051) Homepage

    What I don't see is a sane reason to build high speed rail.

    Because the ability to move people and goods around very quickly efficiently and with minimal pollution is a good thing?

  • by Vanders ( 110092 ) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @10:34AM (#41714377) Homepage
    You asked about High Speed Rail, not the specific (apparently extremely brain dead) plans in the United States. Perhaps a better question is why is the USA now failing to implement major infrastructure projects?

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong