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[Photo of China Train]China is building a train that never stops, not even at the station

If the United States has a city that never sleeps, then China readily answers that they will have a train that never stops.

In November 2008, Beijing unveiled a two-year US$585 billion stimulus package, approximately 13% of 2008 GDP. The amount centers on infrastructure as China's capital city intends to spend more on establishing seaports, railroads, and bridges.

At the start of 2009, Beijing already had 110,000 workers for the Beijing-Shanghai line. By the time the line is finished in 2020, the line will have about 16,000 miles (25, 750 km) of rail tracks. China has already put US$300 billion into its vast railroad construction to make it the world's speediest and most technologically-advanced train system.

Chasing Time

The concept of a non-stop train is China's solution to shorten travel time and save on other resources.

Passengers waiting on a station will simply alight into a cocoon-like cabin connected to the station. When the train arrives, it will reduce speed just enough to let the cabin slide into position. As the train picks up speed and departs for the next station, those inside the 'cocoon' on the front part of the train's roof board the bullet train. After all the people are inside, the connector cabin will be moved to the train's rear end.

The same procedure applies in unloading passengers. When the train arrives at the next station, commuters who want to  get off the train will just have to get inside the cabin at the rear end of the train.

The moment it slows down to pick up incoming passengers, it will release the cabin containing the passengers getting off at that station. This gives them time to get out smoothly. The bullet train will always drop one 'cocoon' at the end of its roof and slide a new connector cabin onto the front part of the train's roof at every station.

In a Blink of an Eye

The Ministry of Railways is now seeking alternative means to fund transportation projects in the country. Railroad projects are usually funded through national funds and construction bonds, which the Ministry of Railways issues.

The  construction began in April 2008, with an investment 220.9 billion yuan but so far, only 122.4 billion has been put into the infrastructure plan. The 1,318-kilometer-long rail track is expected to be fully functional in 2012.

According to a report from China Daily, railway operator Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Co Ltd aims to raise 30 to 50 billion yuan through an initial public offering (IPO) this year. The government agency has been preparing the IPO proposal and has distributed it to other major departments: the Ministry of Finance, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission for a thorough review.

Wang Chenghui, Tangshan Railway Vehicle Co. Ltd's deputy general manager, said in January that the company would increase its monthly production capacity to eight bullet trains with eight compartments each. The company is the only one in China that makes trains capable of reaching 350kph and a top speed of around 394.3kph.

The train manufacturer has 22 units stationed in the Wuhan-Gangzhou line that began operations in December 2009. On the Beijing-Tianjin line, Tangshan Railway has another 20 trains operating since August 2008.

This new train system is expected to cut costs, especially since wasted time means lost resources. In a decade's time, China's train system could be the world's fastest. But will it be as cost-efficient as the multibillion dollar project promises? All aboard!

Print ed: 06/10


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