Friday, March 3, 2017

Beijing plans to double the country’s entire bullet train network — already the world's longest — by 2020.
BEIJING DIARY | 3-minute read | 03-03-2017

China this week announced its ambitious plan to double the length of the country’s entire bullet train network — already the world’s longest — by 2020, which will involve laying 14,000km of new track.

China’s bullet train network — or high-speed rail (HSR) as it is known here — is already the world’s longest. As of last year, the total track length crossed 16,000km — a remarkable feat considering that the first HSR line, between Beijing and Tianjin, only went into operation in 2008. The new five-year plan (2016-2020) says the track length will reach 30,000km by 2020. The ambitious goal is to connect 113 cities by bullet train, and to link four out of every five cities with a one million-plus population.

The debate about how viable HSR trains are has been heated in India, which is slowly going forward with its first bullet train links. Land acquisition — as HSR trains run on entirely separate track — and costs have been cited as two obstacles. The first of the two, at least, shouldn’t be a concern for India, Chinese planners say, citing their own experience where a large percentage of the network runs on elevated track that runs above farmland, thus alleviating the need for acquisitions along the routes.
China this week announced its ambitious plan to double the length of the country’s entire bullet train network.

The major acquisitions were for stations. Here, the argument is the stations will be hubs of development — enveloped by surrounding development projects — and will help create jobs and spur the local economy.

At the same time, China is making a heavy loss on its HSR investments. But the government argues this is a public investment that will bear fruits in the long run. Rapid connectivity and opening up hitherto inaccessible cities, the government hopes, will yield an economic dividend. Officials this week cited the example of tourism during the February Lunar New Year holiday, which they said grew 16 per cent domestically, largely facilitated by travel to newly opened up cities on the HSR network.

There are other indirect dividends. A study by Tencent, an Internet company that examined travel patterns of commuters, found an increasing number of people who were now moving not to already overcrowded tier-one cities but to satellite towns, and commuting using the HSR network.

“The development of faster public transport is the key to this, and the high property prices in cities like Shanghai and Beijing are the main drivers,” the study said. One of its case-studies was a pharmaceutical company employee in Shanghai, who because of high rents there found housing in the city of Kunshan, 55km away.

“I take high-speed rails and subways, and that’s not bad since I live near the highspeed train station in Kunshan,” he said. It estimated that around one per cent of Shanghai’s population — more than a quarter of a million people — were commuting over 40km every day.

“Based on our data, people who travel longer to work live near railways stations — highspeed trains and subways,” Liu Chang, the R&D Director of Tencent Location Based Services, told state media. “The trend is growing.”

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)


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