Walt Disney World in Florida may be the next stop for bullet-train makers in Japan and China. Central Japan Railway Co. and China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corp. are competing for the $8 billion President Barack Obama granted for 13 high-speed corridors across the U.S., including a Tampa-Orlando line that may include a station at the Walt Disney Co. resort in Orlando.Japan's Shinkansen trains travel at speeds faster than 180 mph (290 kph). Japan is home to the world’s first Shinkansen and the biggest high-speed network, with 308 million travellers year-on-year to March 2009.
新幹線 (Shinkansen, New Trunk Line) is a Japanese term from the mid 1930s. The concept was to replace the main trunk line, the Tokaido, with novel and dedicated tracks to allow fast passengers-only trains to run between Osaka and Tokyo.
Today, cargo still runs on the old Tokaido tracks, but the Shinkansen are for human beings only. Those of us who like trains, well, the Shinkansen is a treat. I don't mind the slow trains either, having many fond memories of train journeys since I was 8 or 9 years old, all on my own, to visit my grandparents.
Bloomberg: Disney High-Speed Support May Boost Japan, China Trainmakers
Even more exciting for train fans is the idea that China wants to make the trip to Europe a much faster and easier one. I'm not sure how realistic it is at this point. Daily Telegraph thinks you may be able to travel from King's Cross to Beijing in two days:
China's Harmony Express has a top speed of nearly 250mph. I mentioned it here. It was unveiled at the end of 2009 between the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. Chinese-built, but using technology from Germany's Siemens and Japan's Kawasaki (and others), the Harmony Express can cover 660 miles, the equivalent of a journey from London to Edinburgh and back, in just three hours, according to Daily Telegraph.
Passengers could board a train in London and step off in Beijing, 5,070 miles away as the crow flies, in just two days. They could go on to Singapore, 6,750 miles away, within three days.
"We are aiming for the trains to run almost as fast as aeroplanes," said Mr Wang. "The best case scenario is that the three networks will be completed in a decade," he added.
Mr Wang said that China was already in negotiations with 17 countries over the rail lines, which will draw together and open up the whole of Central, East and South East Asia. Mr Wang said the network would also allow China to transport valuable cargoes of raw materials more efficiently.
I don't know about the benefits of shuttling people by fast trains to Disneyland. For the Chinese, the investment in trains is also a matter of resources. For example, they have offered to bankroll a new train track in Burma in exchange for the country's rich reserves of lithium, a metal widely used in batteries. If you use the iPod, your batteries are most likely lithium-ion (possibly from Burma). You could ask Apple where it comes from.
Our world, our precious planet, is so very highly strung, so connected, we are all in it together. We buy products with components from countries we have almost no knowledge of. Burma? Myanmar? China? Japan?
I hope the Chinese are not forgetting to plan and allocate for local transportation. They will need to have in place similar local networks that we built up over a century in Europe and in Japan, with slow trains and trams and bus services, connecting rural areas, towns and cities, for that once-a-day journey.
NHK World: Shinkansen History