China steams ahead with world's fastest train
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Posted 13 February 2010 - 08:26 PM
The world's fastest train opens in China - just in time to whisk people away for the Chinese New Year celebrations. "Wow, it is faster than a helicopter," exclaimed Luo Rongguang as the G1049 Harmony Express eased its way out of Wuhan train station and instantly began to gain speed.
Within a minute of departure, the world's fastest train was travelling at 120 miles per hour. By the time the Harmony Express, or Hexie Hao, hit its first bend, it was travelling at a steady 220 mph. As the lush rice paddies of Hunan, China's breadbasket, blurred past the windows, the inside of the train was eerily still.
Wholly Chinese-built, albeit using technology from Siemens and Kawasaki, the Harmony Express is faster than Japan's Shinkansen bullet trains and France's TGVs.
In testing, it reached speeds of nearly 250mph and it covers the 660 miles between Wuhan and Guangzhou, the equivalent of a journey from London to Edinburgh and back, in just three hours. The journey previously took almost 11 hours.
"It is just amazing," said Mr Luo, a 33-year-old businessman from the Eastern city of Ningbo who was travelling to Guangzhou to visit factories.
"I remember when the minister for Rail said last year that China would one day have trains running at over 300mph. At the time, I thought it was just an empty boast, but now I can see it is not a dream at all."
In fact, the Harmony Express is just the first step of an epic £480 billion project to build nearly 19,000 miles of new railways in the next five years, 8,000 miles of which will be tracks for high-speed trains.
China, the United States and Japan are locked in a race to build super-fast train routes. All three countries are hoping that trains, rather than polluting planes or cars, will once again form the backbone of their domestic travel network.
In the US, President Barack Obama's administration has just proposed - as part of its economic stimulus package - to build or upgrade 7,100 miles of track so it can be high speed. But the timing and other details are uncertain, putting China well ahead in the race.
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