Road & Rail

China’s bullet train network will expand to 35,000km of trackwork by 2020

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

The world’s longest high-speed railway network is set to extend even further by the end of 2019.

China’s high-speed railway network will stretch to an estimated length of 35,000 kilometres by the end of this year, China’s state news outlet Xinhua reported.

The country’s current network of high-speed railways currently extends to 31,043 kilometres, according to data produced by the International Union of Railways (UIC), and operates with trains capable of reaching speeds of 350 kilometres per hour, on lines operating between Beijing–Shanghai, and Beijing–Hong Kong, among others.

According to UIC, China had 26,869 kilometres of high-speed lines in operation at the beginning of June, 2018, marking an expansion from 25,000 kilometres of track work laid by the end of 2017. Since then, thousands of kilometres more have been laid.

But the country has big plans ahead for the expansion of new networks, and bold plans to expand the length of its networks even further, with more than 7,000 kilometres of further track work under construction. UIC predicts that by 2030 to 2035, China’s high-speed rail network could cover more than 80,000 kilometres, representing “an important challenge for operators, industry” and “authorities”.

China continues work on overseas railways, including the Beijing–Laos railway, which Xinhua reported are making “solid headway” and “garnering global prestige” for China’s railways.

According to China’s Ministry of Transport, a total of 3.13 billion passenger rail trips were made between January and October, representing an 8.9 per cent year on year increase. The Ministry has predicted China’s railways, covering some 150,000 kilometres of tracks, will record 3.6 billion passenger trips by the end of the year – up 92 per cent from 2012.

Bullet trains specifically, which can take travellers from Beijing to Shanghai (more than 1,000 kilometres) in under five hours, are expected to handle 2.31 billion passenger trips, this year, representing a reported 3.4-fold increase from 2012 levels, according Xinhua.

And while China’s current high-speed trains travel at speeds between 250– and 350 kilometres per hour, Japan has begun testing shinkansen capable of surpassing these speeds.

In May, the East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) revealed it plans to operate a new shinkansen (called the Alfa-X) at 360 kilometres per hour – 10 kilometres faster than China’s Fuxing Hao, which links Beijing and Shanghai and has the same top speed.

Production of the shinkansen finished in early May at a reported cost of 10 billion yen ($131 million).

However, if current projections prove correct, Beijing could quickly reclaim the mantle for the fastest trains in the world. China has reportedly begun testing a “super magnetic levitation” train that could hit astonishing speeds of up to 600 kilometres per hour, with a prototype reportedly set to hit tracks by 2020.

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