The Chinese government has signed cooperation agreements with the State of California and General Electric to help build high speed rail lines. The agreements, both of which are preliminary, show China’s desire to become a big exporter and licensor of bullet trains traveling 215 miles an hour, an environmentally friendly technology in which China has raced past the US in the last few years.
China is offering not just to build the railroad in California but to help finance its construction, and Chinese officials have already been shuttling from Beijing to Sacramento to make presentations.
The state’s high-speed rail authority has made no decisions on whose technology to choose. Even if an agreement is reached for China to build and help bankroll a high-speed rail system in California, considerable obstacles would remain.
China’s rail ministry would face independent labor unions and democratically elected politicians, neither of which it has to deal with in China. The US also has labor and immigration laws stricter than those in China.
China’s rail ministry has an international reputation for speed and low costs, and is opening 1,200 miles of high-speed rail routes this year alone. China is moving rapidly to connect almost all of its own provincial capitals with bullet trains.
International rail experts say that China has mastered the art of building high-speed rail lines quickly and inexpensively.
New York Times reported that a high-speed rail link for passengers from Beijing to Shanghai will be finished by the end of 2011 or early 2012 and cut the journey to 4 hours, from 10 hours now. By comparison, New York to Atlanta or Chicago is a similar distance, and takes 18 to 19 hours on Amtrak, which must share tracks with 12,000-ton freight trains and many commuter trains.