Living in Japan, we take the Shinkansen for granted, and tend to forget that other countries are not as fortunate to have such an efficient, safe and reliable mass transit system. But countries like France, Germany, and most recently Spain, are also investing heavily in high-speed rail. Over at Treehugger, I compare the different countries.
It turns out that the U.S. is hoping Japan and other countries will help to build a high-speed railway network. Karen Rae told Kyodo that FRA is reaching out to "a number of countries that have success in high-speed rail" and that "Japan is one of many." She also noted that they are trying to avoid creating a "cookie cutter" where everything is exactly the same: "It really needs to be designed around the local and state needs."
The International Union of Railways defines high-speed rail as services which regularly operate at or above 250km/h on new tracks, or 200km/h (125 mph) on existing tracks.
Recommended reading: Biting the Bullet: What we can learn from the Shinkansen, by Christopher P. Hood
Japan is a long, narrow country. This makes it particularly suitable for developing a rail network - though its abundance of rivers and mountains obviously is less of advantage. However, much of the Japanese population is located on the Eastern seaboard, and so can easily be connected by one line. This is opposed to the multitude of lines that are needed in Britain, though high-speed lines could be developed that would have better population coverage than now.
Ironically there are in fact more railways (per head of population (279.8 km/million people in UK compared to 142.2 in Japan), and in relation to the area of the country (67.8 km/100km2 in Britain compared to 47.6 in Japan) in Britain than in Japan. However, British people do not use them as much (6% compared to 35% of journeys) - although the fact that so many British are so outspoken (especially in criticising the lines or services) may give the impression than more people use them.
The high level of education and professionalism of the shinkansen operators and drivers need not be a problem in Britain, though it would doubtless take time to change the bad-habits that have managed to fester and develop over the past few decades (and if the level of service at McDonald's, for example, is anything to go by - where it is still nothing like that in the United States - then perhaps this will be an almost impossible hurdle). In other words, as one JR Tokai employee told me, 'you cannot give other countries the shinkansen and expect it to work perfectly with no accidents'.
Blogs I Like
- Ad B: Japan Navigator
- Adventures of a (Swedish) Salariman in Tokyo
- Amy: Blue Lotus
- Boing Boing: Wonderful Things
- Brendan: UNU OurWorld 2.0
- Hiroko & Rick: Itadakimasu
- Jared B: Tokyo Green Space
- Joan: Popcorn Homestead
- Jon: Toshogu or As I See Japan... From L.A.
- Justin B: The Rational Pessimist (Climate & Risk)
- Kat: Food Adventures in Japan
- Ken: KenElwood in semi-rural Japan
- Mari: Watashi to Tokyo
- MTC: Shisaku
- Otakimura: In The Pines
- P: Pacific Islander
- Peko Peko: Kyoto Foodie
- Richard H: Spike Japan
- Risa & Kirk: Savory Japan
- Robert: Pure Land Mountain
- Shizuoka Gourmet
- Ten Thousand Things
- Tom: Kitchen Garden in Japan
Links I Like
- News: About Sweden in English
- News: BBC
- News: Der Spiegel (Germany) in English
- News: Deutche Welle
- News: FT Asia (UK, EU)
- News: Kyoto Journal (Japan)
- News: NHK World Society & Others (Japan)
- News: People's Daily (China)
- News: Telegraph (UK)
- News: The Local (Sweden)
- News: Yomiuri Online (Japan)
- News: Yonhap (Korea)
- NGOs/News: Organic Consumers Association (US)
- NGOs: Amnesty
- NGOs: Consumers Union (US) Food
- NGOs: Consumers Union of Japan
- NGOs: Greenpeace
- NGOs: Greenz.jp
- NGOs: Japan for Sustainability
- NGOs: Japan Organic Agriculture Association
- NGOs: Japan Vegetarian Society
- Shops: Alishan Organic Center
- Shops: Eco to Waza (GreenJapan)
- Shops: Warabe Mura
- Stuff: Japan Probe