China’s rail industry has entered a new era. On Sunday, it successfully unveiled its first prototype of a train designed to travel at a velocity of 620 kph (390 mph). As the world’s biggest country by population, the advancements of China’s rail industry — already the world’s largest — will likely have an outsized effect on regional transportation issues around the world.
More impressive still is the country’s sustained financial investment in rail projects. Though China is reportedly not scheduled to introduce new high-speed rails until at least 2022, the nation is reportedly spending up to $180 billion on new projects and modernizing existing ones in the near future.
This kind of investment has been closely scrutinized by international observers, and last month, the U.S. State Department urged China to improve its “operational safety standards” after an explosion killed 38 people in late April. The critique referred to the “long history of poor safety record and egregious safety lapses and other incidents” on China’s rail network.
Other concerns are more obscure. Last year, a major flood in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan struck a high-speed line, while last week, a high-speed line near Guangzhou, capital of the south-western province of Guangdong, partially collapsed. Local media reported that the collapses weren’t caused by any recent construction, and the project was operating at a normal rate the week of the disaster.
Meanwhile, China’s rail industry continues to expand, with new lines — particularly in the western and central regions — opening up. In June, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced that the country would extend high-speed rail lines in all five of the country’s time zones. In 2017, more than 1,700 kilometers (1,000 miles) of new high-speed rail were planned, with 825 kilometers (547 miles) slated to be built over the next three years.
China readies high-speed rail lines for Europe
Xi has his eyes on warp speed rail
In China, China Will Be No. 1
All aboard! Beijing lures pilots to city-hopping city trains