China’s high-speed trains are back on track

    Six years after a deadly crash, the country’s bullet trains are speeding up

    CHINA’S high-speed rail system, just a decade old, is now one of the biggest infrastructure projects in history. The government in Beijing has spent an estimated 2.4trn yuan ($360bn) building 22,000km (13,670 miles) of high-speed rail lines, more than the rest of the world combined. This month, six years after a maximum speed limit was lowered following a deadly crash, China's trains are getting ready to accelerate.

    China’s path from railway laggard to leader has been bumpy. In 2011 the head of the country’s railways ministry was sacked for his role in a massive bribery scandal. Months later, two high-speed trains collided near the eastern city of Wenzhou, killing 40 people and injuring some 200 more. In the wake of the deadly crash, Beijing temporarily halted new rail projects and reduced the maximum speed of its high-speed trains from 350kph to 300kph.

    The crash outraged many members of the Chinese public, as did the government’s censorship of critical media coverage of the accident. Some internet users began referring to the high-speed railway line, called Hexie or 'harmony', as Hexue or 'drinking blood'.

    Today, Chinese high-speed rail appears to be back on track. The government’s five-year plan calls for 3.5trn yuan in railway investment between 2016 and 2020. By then, if all goes to plan, the network will stretch 30,000km connecting more than 80% of the country’s major cities. With ever more passengers riding the speedy trains, many of the rail lines are now profitable.

    Their international reputation has also improved. In 2014 a group of World Bank researchers lauded the country’s trains as 'world-class' and described the development of the railway network as 'remarkable'.

    In yet another sign of China’s confidence in its railways, on September 21st bullet trains traveling on the flagship Beijing-Shanghai line will once again whizz down the tracks at speeds of 350kph. The new trains, which can reach speeds of 400kph, will be branded with the word Fuxing or 'rejuvenation'.

    Source : The Economist

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