For years China has had the largest and most far-reaching infrastructure, a system of four north-south routes and four east-west routes branching out through the country. The country’s newest project, named the Beijing-Guangzhou route, covers 1,200 miles — or the distance from New York to Key West, Fla., in about 8 hours.
The new bullet train opened Wednesday in China, and travels approximately 186 miles per hour between Beijing and Guangzhou, the large metropolis in southeastern China. Older trains traveling the same distance take between 21 and 30 hours.
Flights between Beijing and Guangzhou average about three hours and 15 minutes, and passengers must arrive an hour early. The high-speed trains require passengers to arrive 20 minutes early, making it a viable option. Additionally, airports tend to be farther from the major cities than the high-speed train stations.
The new rail system is not only helping people get places faster, it has jump-started the Chinese economy. Over 100,000 workers have been hired to work on the rail system, keeping unemployment rates low. The new trains have also reduced air pollution throughout China, as well as the demand for imported diesel fuel.
In 2009, during the global financial crisis, spending on the train system aided the Chinese economy. This year, 4 trillion renminbi, or $640 billion have been spent on the Beijing-Guangzhou route, making it one of China’s costliest projects.
China’s bullet-train program began in 2007, and its first line opened just before summer 2008. The entire system now spans more than 5,780 miles. China has been re-vamping the old trains in the country to make room for freight shipments, removing passenger cars from the older, slower trains.
A ticket to ride the new bullet trains from Beijing to Guangzhou costs 865 renminbi, or $139 one way, compared with 426 renminbi, or $68 for the most inexpensive seat on one of the older trains.