back to article China 'in discussions' about high-speed rail lines to London, Germany – and the US

Chinese officials have outlined a massive – no, that's an understatement; make that mind-bogglingly Brobdingnagian – vision of a globe-girdling high-speed rail network that would have as one of its legs a line that would run from northern China up through Russia, under the North Pacific, through Alaska, then Canada, and finally …


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  1. ian 22

    All your station....

    Best of luck with that plan. The USians have enough Chinese built railroads.

    1. Psyx

      Re: All your station....

      Infringing on the monopoly are they?

      Maybe the US rail industry will have learned from the mistakes of the car industry and pull its socks up, rather than relying on industry measures, import duties and bad-mouthing anything foreign in order to preserve market share, instead of making decent, modern products?

      1. ian 22

        Re: All your station....

        "Maybe the US rail industry will have learned ..."

        Really? Spend much time at the casino do you?

        In any case, the reference was to the Chinese labour that built the Western portion of the Yank's transcontinental railroad in the 19th century. The rest of it was built with Irish labour, and the less said about it the better.

  2. Chad H.

    I'd rather ride on top of that train that fly United or Ryanair.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      I would not be so sure

      Ryanair maybe one of the biggest sc*mbags in the universe, but even they comply with UK and EU airworthiness and air safety rules. United complies with both Eu and USA.

      Compared to that Chinese rail complies with rules which it sets itself predominantly derived from corruption and vested interests. With rather obvious results:

      Dunno, I would think not twice, but thrice before I ride such a transcontinental train.

      If it is operated by German railways or TGV... That would be a different matter. Not that they do not crash - they do. They at the very least try to be safe and crash because of accidents not because of "natural corruption and mismanagement" causes.

      1. pilotpirx

        Re: I would not be so sure

        So, yes, there was a train accident in China. Congratulations, you made a great point. May I help you out by googling other catastrophes? How about:

        As everyone who has ever travelled on a high-speed train in China can tell you, these trains run smooth, and they are PACKED.

        Let's just keep on bashing everything Chinese, while we silently allow our own infrastructure and industry to crumble and die. They will gladly take the business opportunities to fix it for us later on.

        Just like that ridiculous urban legend on "ghost cities in China". I mean, consider how many people live there, and that half of the Chinese population still dwells on the countryside. There is a massive urbanization going on, where do you think will all those people be living in a couple of years?


    2. LarsG

      It would take 7 years to build the China bit, 10 years to build the Russian bit, 9 years for the Polish bit, 8 years for the German bit, 12 years, including 2 hour lunch breaks, for the French bit and then 100 years for the English bit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the English bit is already built right? we HAVE high speed lines all the way from london to the eurotunnel...

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          we HAVE high speed lines all the way from london to the eurotunnel...

          And then it's all horse and cart after that...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          the English bit

          "the English bit is already built right? we HAVE high speed lines all the way from london to the eurotunnel..."

          you miss the point of the post you're referring to though. By a fair bit, I'm afraid...

  3. Steven Roper

    Awesome idea if they can pull it off, but building something on that scale would have to be a multi-country effort. And aside from the engineering difficulties of tunnelling under the Bering Strait, of as much gravity perhaps are the risks of running a high-speed railway through all those countries whose names end in "-stan" - known to harbour elements with a penchant for targeting transport infrastructure to demonstrate their beliefs regarding holy retribution...

    1. Bumpy Cat

      Just tunnel under them too. Tell them the railway goes via Russia.

  4. David Kelly 2

    Not Adventurous Enough

    Long tunnels under water: BTDT.

    Why not bore directly through the center of the Earth? Then there would be no need for powered transit, one could just "fall" to one's destination!

    1. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: Not Adventurous Enough

      Long drop not feasible. Insufficient supplies of unobtainium. However, a study has been done on speed of such transit. Not as fast as you might think for non-vertical transit. See New Scientist a decade or so ago. Engineers have to stay near surface for now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not Adventurous Enough

        I thought it was always 42 minutes, regardless of where the tunnel goes. But you need a completely frictionless train to do that.

    2. LarsG

      Re: Not Adventurous Enough

      An elevator to the moon would be more feasible.

  5. Denarius Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Oh I dunno

    Think of it as a Chinese response to A Transatlantic Tunnel Hurrah! If powered by nuclear generated electricity it is probably worth considering as a economy stimulating activity that might be useful in reducing CO2 emissions. Not to mention dependent on whether Europe implodes economically after the Germans get sick of funding southern Europe thus removing need for goods movement in first place.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Harry Harrison Reference, Hurrah!

      it is probably worth considering as a economy stimulating activity

      Unfortunately 40 years of relentless bullshit and economic destruction (with the best yet to come) should have taught us that Keynesianism of all kinds is a pipe dream.

      No such luck.

      China is currently at the top of the S-curve of its building boom. It has empty cities standing around, rotting. All that energy, time, materials and lifes locked up in infrastructure never to be used and never to generate any ROI whatsoever. Lost.

      It needs a new monster project fast to justify printing more money unless the whole Ponzi scheme collapses like a Universe living through its big crunch.

      However, the light at the end of the transatlantic tunnel turned out to be the Horseman of Futzy Accounting.

      Ron Paul Doom.jpg

  6. Denarius Silver badge

    Best Big Idea in a long while

    compared to luxury buildings for the filthy rich to own and keep empty or CEO ego feeding skyscrapers it is positively sane and reasonable. Meanwhile, Murder on the Orient Express can get an update or the Trans-Siberian Express get a big makeover.

  7. Mark 85 Silver badge

    A great idea

    Except as Steven Roper points out about the -stans. Also, most of those places have populations of critters both domestic and wild that like to wander. Keeping them off the tracks would be a major headache in itself, not to mention people hanging on the side of the railcars, stealing the rails and if electric, the copper.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A great idea

      Yeas but imagine the employment possibilities, a million strong international guard force with the power to shoot anything that moves.

      1. S4qFBxkFFg

        Re: A great idea

        Indeed, something will need to be found for that North Korean military to do when the country collapses.

  8. Charles Manning

    I can't say I blame them

    USA and Europe are plunging themselves into debt at a huge rate, and the Chinese are buying it to keep the west afloat.

    The Chinese will need good travel infrastucture to visit their colonies.

    1. Ralph B

      Re: I can't say I blame them

      True. They probably already own all the US land they need for the track path.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I can't say I blame them

      Charles Manning,

      You do realise you've got that backwards, don't you?

      China has spent the last decade selling stuff to the West and not buying as much of our stuff in exchange. To balance the books they've bought debt instead. This doesn't mean they get to take over though. As it's 'credit card debt', not 'mortgage'. It's un-secured. And there ain't no bailiffs.

      Therefore they're likely not to get it all back.

      Some inflation, a bit of QE, an inevitable Italian default...

  9. Rampant Spaniel

    Theres no doubting it is possible, theres not much new here (besides the length of undersea tunnels) but in reality it comes down to scale and economics. They can build it but will it be financially viable? Then you have the political hurdles at each border and the potential terrorist target aspect. Personally I would rather travel either fairly slowly on a train with plenty of space or very fast on a supersonic jet than the middle ground on the flying meat markets we have now but I'm probably in the minority.

    I'm somewhat shocked that the Chinese haven't built a supersonic passenger jet already. The ruskies copied Concord(e), the French and British designed Concord(e) on paper and sliderules, I figured it would be a decent project for the Chinese to show off and entirely within the realms of possibility. Not sure I would fly on the first flight however :)

    1. Crazy Operations Guy

      They have't built a copy of teh Concord because the idea is crap

      There is no need for such a high-speed passenger aircraft. There are so many problems with the concept itself: Very little demand for something that high-speed, extremely high maintenance costs per flight-hour compared to anything else and the cost of building runways long enough to accommodate such a craft.

      Trains are the cheapest transport method in terms of capacity vs cost. Plus being able to delivering goods to market in a matter of 3-4 days (2 days trains, another 2 on the truck and loading dock) would be a major boon for the Chinese economy and the global economy as well.

      1. Dom 3

        Re: They have't built a copy of teh Concord because the idea is crap

        BA ran their Concorde fleet at an operating profit despite being hampered by the short range (which meant the only feasible route was across the North Atlantic) and the tiny fleet which meant no economies of scale on training, maintenance, etc.

        An SST which had the range to get across the Pacific could piobably sell quite well.

        1. DocJames

          Re: They have't built a copy of teh Concord because the idea is crap

          Range was further than you think - there was a Singapore route. But the Americans were so pissed at being beaten to supersonic commercial flight that they promptly instituted laws against supersonic commercial flight over the US, hence preventing flights to anywhere but the eastern seaboard. The Singapore route was bedevilled by India and Malaysia also having arguments about supersonic flight over their territory.

      2. TopOnePercent Silver badge

        Re: They have't built a copy of teh Concord because the idea is crap

        Trains are the cheapest transport method in terms of capacity vs cost.

        Wrong. It'd either be motorbikes or cars that would take that honour.

  10. 1Rafayal

    Strange, I watched Snowpiercer the other night and wondered if anyone had ever thought about doing this for real.

    I much prefer to take the train than fly, when I can, so this gets a big thumbs up from me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You actually watched Snowpiercer???

      Did you mean all of it, as in all the way through to the end and paying attention and stuff?

      Wow, just wow.

      1. 1Rafayal

        Re: You actually watched Snowpiercer???

        @AC, yup - watched it twice

  11. DougS Silver badge

    Ring of Fire?

    OK, I guess that is hundreds of miles south of the Bering Straight, but I wouldn't think it would take much of a shift to cause a problem. And wouldn't take much of a problem to be a major problem, given the relative lack of resources there would be on either end of that tunnel, versus the Chunnel.

    But I'm sure the engineers can work that out. Be cool to see - much better use of their resources than building more ghost cities. If they follow through, it might turn out to be their equivalent of the Apollo Project.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Ring of Fire?

      Very interesting point! The 'ring of fire' does actually loop downwards in the shape of a crescent, following the islands which border the bottom of the Bering Sea. The distance is approximately 6-800 miles. However, earthquakes are not isolated to the edge of the ring, they can occur hundreds of miles from the edge of the ring (we get them locally in Hawai'i although they are usually M 3-5).

      It will be interesting to see what their solutions are. Also if they will use different trains for different climates? It would seem sensible to use at least different engines designed to cope with the hotter countries than you would use for the Siberian > Alaska stretch. Designing 200mph train that can go from 45C to -70C would be a sizable challenge.

    2. Geoff Johnson

      Re: Ring of Fire?

      Google for tectonic plates and you'll find lots of maps showing where the boundaries are. It looks like the long line to the USA would cross one boundary, and that will be well inland. It's also no a particularly active boundary from what I can see on some of the pictures.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From a sheer statement of ambition...

    You have to say Wow!!

    Can anyone see the US displaying this level of ambition ever again? They can't even get back to the moon! Well they could if they put Elon Musk in charge maybe. But the problem is the elite are too busy lining their own pockets and looking after corporate interests to have this class of imagination.

    That said, I'll reign in my optimism here, and say that I did a spot of travelling on their-them-trains, and as we know ahem there are a few safety issues... But kudos to them. Roll on China being number one I say, its their time to shine....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From a sheer statement of ambition...

      "But the problem is the elite are too busy lining their own pockets and looking after corporate interests"

      Nothing new there then, the elite have been doing that since "they" killed Kennedy to keep the Vietnam war going...

    2. Stephen Channell


      Getting to the US congress to agree would make the engineering look simples.. that's a place that can't pass a bill to complete an oil pipeline from Calgary to Huston or export natural gas..

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Faster access to Europe for fascist super-state

    That's progress compared to, oh, I don't know, 1939, say?

  14. Dave, Portsmouth

    Beats HS2

    You call it crazy, but if there wasn't so much international politics involved they could probably manage it quicker and cheaper than HS2!

  15. Detective Emil

    Doesn't add up

    The great circle from Beijing to Seattle follows pretty much the proposed route, and is 8,708km long. So why are they proposing to lay 13,000 km of track?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Doesn't add up


    2. Nigel 11

      Re: Doesn't add up

      So why are they proposing to lay 13,000 km of track?

      THINK BIG! By the time China Global Railroad is complete, much more than 13 Megameters.

      From Seattle, across the USA, and South to Latin America (via Panama)

      From Beijing, through Russia to Europe, and either across the Straits of Gibraltar into Africa or possibly via Iran and Saudi. Either way, ending at Capetown.

      Don't forget the branch line tunneling under the Himalayas to India.

      It's not even a new idea, but its time just might be coming (ie when the oil finally starts running out). Yes, the politics is "interesting", on top of which there are a few other rather tricky bits of geology asides from the Bering Strait.

  16. Owl Shaped Jar

    Time flies by

    Bar a handful of cynics, seems like pretty much unanimous agreement so far that this is a fantastic ambition, motivated only by engineering achievement. It's heartening to see such unqualified support for the universal human goal of "One World, One Dream"! Sharing the benefits of scientific civilisation through railways and ship canals is symbolic of China's peaceful rise and a refreshing change from the deceitful machinations of 19th century colonialism. As Academician Wang rightfully points out, the only conceivable problem is finding enough money.

    For those disheartened by the scale, the cost, or the chance that regressive elements in the societies of small intervening countries might disrupt the benevolence of Chinese engineers and Sino-Russian capital:

    Underscoring the realism and apolitical nature of these proposals: "[The technology has] already been developed and will be used to build a … tunnel between Fujian [and] Taiwan."

    Great! What with the short distance between those two brotherly provinces of China and the total absence of any other considerations apart from money I reckon this entirely new project must already be underway. Let's have a look:

    So far the work from the Taiwan side is slow, but rest assured president Ma* is working on it, even if he will have to do all the digging himself.

    (* Those unfamiliar with Ma can substitute "Cameron" for very similar effect)

  17. steveking1000

    Probably half built by now...

    I'm a construction professional specialising in railways, and I don't doubt that they both can and will do this - though it may take several decades.

    China has a huge network of high speed lines - as does most of the developed world. Here in the UK we have less than 70 miles of what really should be called mid-speed lines. But, we do have lorry loads of Environmental Impact Assessments and other devices for dodging decision making.

    Not sure about your 220mph claim though -even as an average it seems really slow for an international line. Most countries with HSR are planning new lines to be at least 300mph, and I'd have though that for a flagship line of this ambition the objective would be at least 400mph.

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Probably half built by now...

      "Most countries with HSR are planning new lines to be at least 300mph"

      No they aren't. The fastest conventional lines are 350kph (which is what the 220mph is based on). No-one's planning anything significantly faster, because (a) the time saved for most journeys would be negligible; and (b) the power requirements (and hence cost) increase almost exponentially. 250mph is probably the practical limit* for steel-on-steel rails. Maglev runs at 250mph, but junctions are a bit of a problem, so it's only used for point-to-point.

      * A specially equipped TGV did manage 350mph, but note it needed two power cars and only 3 carriages to do so.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sleeper trains to China? (and the rest of europe)

    Yes please!

    It already takes me over 24 hours travel to get from home to central China, if I can spend that time peacefully on a train with my family in a 4 birth train cabin rather than hanging round airports driving and flying, I think it would be worth it.. and probably cheaper! it costs me around £1300 each for the return journey as it is!

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: Sleeper trains to China? (and the rest of europe)

      I'd rather spring for a 4 berth cabin... Probably quite a lot quieter than a 4 birth cabin...

  19. Chris Miller

    There's a sweet spot

    For the length of high-speed rail lines. Too short (like London-Birmingham to pick a random example) and the time saved over conventional rail is trivial. Too far (much over 500 miles) and they take longer than air travel, even allowing for the inconvenience of getting to/from the airport and assuming our cockamamie security theatre remains in place forever.

    You can already travel from London to Berlin mostly on high-speed lines (700 miles with one change, necessary because the UK isn't in Schengen), but it takes 10 hours. Who will spend two days travelling from Shanghai to London when you can fly in under 12 hours?

    A direct link for container-based freight, that would otherwise travel by sea taking 25 days or so, might actually be a commercial proposition.


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