8 responses

  1. Beemac
    March 25, 2013

    “High speed” rail is a 19th century invention dressed in a 21st century fantasy.

    It’s telling that a centrally planned economy has sunk over $400 billion into this mess and people are shunning it due to the high ticket prices. Spain is shutting down their network due to low speeds, high cost and low ridership.

    Planes are cheaper and faster with much less infrastructure and more flexibility that trains will ever have. Buses and cars in the USA are as fast or faster than the “high speed” links actual or proposed. Amtrak has proposed a $345 million per mile Boston-Washington link while California will be blowing at least $300 million per mile.

    I think this article has nothing to do with the Singularity. Which to me is about faster, cheaper, better and bottom up innovation in a free market, NOT authoritarian, top down diktat using money taken from it’s citizens.

    • Hans Stam
      March 25, 2013

      I live in China and I have to disagree with you. Sure, the Chinese government has too much money, and needs to spend it on something. Sure, they are taking money from their citizens, but so is almost every country in the world (it’s called tax).
      It is amazing that I can travel from the center of china to the coast in less than 3 hours, and this does not have anything to do with the Chinese government being corrupt. It has to do with the will of the government to improve the county’s transportation system (and creating jobs for people).

      • Beemac
        March 26, 2013

        That’s just it, this isn’t an “improvement”, it’s a drain on the economy. These types of trains don’t pay for themselves and won’t. So taxes are being poured into the ever deepening hole.

        Also, authoritarian regimes are even worse at creating usable and lasting infrastructure than socialist or democratic governments. How long until stories come out about crumbling bridges, tunnels and tracks on these lines?

      • jaxroam
        March 29, 2013

        The World Bank and others may differ with you there, but actually nobody knows for sure yet. The HSR network is so new we don’t know the consequences. This note list some items to consider: http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2013/01/16/000356161_20130116164534/Rendered/PDF/NonAsciiFileName0.pdf

        Actually, for some of these lines I think we can be sure will be profitable in all senses of the word, while there are other lines that I cannot see how could possibly be profitable in any sense of the word. Then there are those in the middle that probably won’t give any short-term return for the rail-road agency, or even long-term return on investment, but may be profitable for the regions by growing their economy.

        Anyway diminishing returns of the more expensive, less profitable unbuilt lines is likely to overshadow any network effect.

        In China there isn’t an either trains or planes, both are needed, both are rapidly being built. Maybe too rapidly, but the usage is growing, congestion is a problem. Beijing built T3 airport terminal, the world’s largest, just in time for the 2008 Olympics. Now five years later it is full.

  2. gnormb
    March 25, 2013

    Nice article and a striking contrast between what China is accomplishing and what the States, unfortunately, is failing to accomplish. I think a robust, transcontinental high-speed rail system would be a major boon to the US economy, though the projected costs are disturbingly high and the time frame is laboriously slow.

  3. rtryon
    March 25, 2013

    Trains in China vs the U.S. are not subject to the same considerations regarding cost/benefit. U.S. railroads have cost considerations that relate to over a century of labor history and many cost factors are as a result too complex to easily circumnavigate. Furthermore the needs and willingness of citizens to do as told vs what they want present a vastly different marketing model.

    No political or economic consideration is really the same and as China has already shown, its people are now far less pliable than they were a few decades ago. Millions of cars are now serving many Chinese in ways that are preferable to trains for the same reasons found in US history. How that changes with alternative fuels and other considerations remains to be seen.

    In a word, don’t make simplistic judgments.

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