As Sir David Higgins takes over as Chairman of Britain’s controversial £50bn HS2 project, China has announced a £60bn spend in 2014 in a move that will effectively double its high speed rail network. The Chinese Government have a number of aspirations riding on High Speed Rail; most notably the drive, as it claims, to modernise, urbanise and pull the Chinese people out of poverty. But also improving links with neighbours such as the line to Dandong on the North Korean border currently in construction and set to open next year, or seeking government cooperation and partnerships to project a new high speed line into Thailand.
Between 2007 to 2012, the cumulative ridership of high-speed trains in China was more than 1.5bn. The total length of high-speed rail networks currently in operation is about 10,000km, while another 12,000km are under construction. The network is almost double the combined length of Europe and Japan’s railway networks.
Constructing such a massive High Speed network in such a short timespan has not been without problems or even tragedy; In 2011 a crash claimed 40 lives in east China. Since then, a series of corruption scandals have brought about the arrest of the former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, on charges of corruption and abuse of power.
However, it is expected that by the end of 2020 the combined networks of both inter-city and high-speed railways in China will cover more than 50,000km, serving the capital cities of every province and cities with populations over 500,000.
Among its outstanding high-speed railways is the Beijing-Shanghai route with a total distance of 1,318km. It is the world’s longest high-speed rail line constructed in a single phase. The line started commercial operation in June 2011.