(Editor's Note: This story was originally published March 19, 2010)
High-speed rail seems to be top of mind among the world's transportation wonks and policy makers, with action in the U.S., Europe and, most of all, China.
As California puts a $9.95 billion high-speed rail project on the fast track, China has begun exploring plans to link its high-speed train routes to Europe. Meanwhile, the U.S. federal government has set aside $8.8 billion in stimulus funds for 13 high-speed rail projects.
China and Japan also have jumped into the market for manufacturing bullet trains, including trains that would connect Tampa, Fla. to Orlando, with a possible stop at Walt Disney World. They are the latest players in the bullet train sweepstakes. France’s Alstom SA, Germany’s Siemens AG and Canada’s Bombardier Inc. also want to sell trains, tracks and operating equipment for the U.S. effort.
With the runaway success of Spain's Alta Velocidad Española (AVE), connecting Madrid and Barcelona, the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) in France and the U.S. stimulus funds, high-speed rail has generated a considerable buzz. High-speed rail projects also are underway in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.
Bullet trains are generally considered to be those traveling faster than 180 miles an hour(290 kph). Japan built the world’s first “Shinkansen” and has the biggest high-speed network, carrying 308 million people last year.
China is catching up fast, though. According to a report in Business Week, China is eying two potential routes from Beijing, one passing through India, Pakistan and the Middle East, and another connecting Germany, through Russia. A third line would extend south from China to connect Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia.
Video: High-speed trains around the world (California High-Speed Rail Authority)
China Explores Rail Routes to Europe
Business Week, March 16, 2010
First China, next the world
Economist, Gulliver blog, March 15, 2010
California High-Speed Rail
High-Speed Rail Gains Traction in Spain
The New York Times, March 16, 2010
Disney High-Speed Support May Boost Japan, China Trainmakers
Bloomberg News (via Business Week)