17 February 2019
China is offering its high-speed rail technology to the world. Photo: Bloomberg
China is offering its high-speed rail technology to the world. Photo: Bloomberg

Around the world by high-speed train: why not?

There’s no stopping China in its obsession to lay rail tracks all over the country — and other parts of the world. 

Earlier this week, Premier Li Keqiang, during his visit to Africa, pitched his country’s expertise in high-speed rail technology and offered to share it with friendly nations in the continent.

But that’s nothing compared with its grand plan to build a railway connecting China and the United States. That’s a two-day journey by train at a speed of 350 kilometers per hour. That’s good news for those with fear of flying.

According to the plan, the rail route starts from China’s northeast region, crosses the frigid zones of Siberia, works through a tunnel under the Bering Strait to Alaska, and from there goes to Canada before finally reaching the US mainland, the Beijing Times reported Thursday, citing Wang Meng-shu, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering. 

The entire route will cover 13,000 kilometers, and the submarine tunnel alone is 200 kilometers long.

Such an ultra-ambitious rail network will need a lot of investment and international cooperation, not to mention a lot of digging and installing of rail tracks. But right now, there’s no harm in dreaming.

The important thing, Wang said, is that China has the technology to realize the plan. And Beijing is willing to shoulder most of the funding that will be required, he said. 

In fact, the same technology can be used for less grand but still ambitious projects, such as building a cross-strait rail line connecting Fujian province and Taiwan, Wang says. 

Several other long-haul rail routes are under discussion or under construction. There’s one that starts from London, then crosses Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow, before reaching the Inner Mongolian city of Manzhouli. Another begins in Xinjiang’s Urumqi, travelling through Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, and ending in Germany. A third one starts from Yunnan’s Kunming, then crosses Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, before reaching Singapore.

A blue-eyed American singer once sang about his dream of flying to the moon. Some people in Beijing could have told him: “Why not take a train?” 

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