Jealous Yet America? European And Asian Nations Speed Ahead on High-Speed Rail Networks

February 8, 2011 3:44 p.m.

1||The Obama administration announced on Tuesday a six-year, $53-billion-dollar project to expand high-speed rail service in the United States – promising trains reaching 250mph. The budget request is in addition to $8-billion already allocated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Even so, those billions are a drop in the bucket compared to the investment European and Asian countries have been making to their rail networks for decades. Above – a Japanese bullet train – top speed 275 mph. ||flickr/kubotake&&

2||The inside of a Japanese bullet train. Japan’s rail network carries over 150 million passengers annually on its 1,528 miles of track. Currently, the only high-speed passenger rail in the US is Amtrak’s Acela line which runs between Boston to Washington, D.C., and it hits top speed only briefly along that route.||Kyodo/Newscom&&

3||In this photo a German high-speed train sits next to a yellow Eurostar train. After Japan, West Germany was the second country to develop a high-speed rail network. Germany ordered its latest set of trains in 2008 – 15 trains costing 500 million euros. At current exchange rates that’s $684.3 million, or 9% of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocation for high speed rail.||Robert Schlesinger/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom&&

4||While Europe has had a head start, it is China that has the world’s largest high-speed network with 5,193 miles of track. Above, a new high-speed line connects a Chinese provincial capital to a nearby city. The new line opened in January 2011.||Color China/Newscom&&

5||Passengers wait board to trains at Shanghai Train Station. China’s current high-speed rail plans call for over 10,000 kilometers of high-speed rail.||flickr/nojhan&&

6||China’s signature rail project is a connection of Beijing to Shanghai – the first commercial line designed to travel at a top speed of 380 kilometers per hour. The 820-mile trip will take under four hours. The engine above will be one of the engines propelling those new trains.||STEPHEN SHAVER/UPI/Newscom&&

7||A prototype of France’s next generation of high-speed trains. The prototype debuted in 2008, and a private Italian train company will receive the first production trains in 2011. ||Stanislav Zbynek/MCT/Newscom&&

8||The Eurostar is famous for quick travel under the English Channel. Passengers get on in London and arrive in Paris less than two hours later.||David Wimsett/Photoshot/Newscom&&

9||A high-speed train in Taiwan.||flickr/POHAN&&

10||But the future of rail travel may be maglev trains which never physically touch the ground when traveling. Currently, the only operational maglev train in the world connects Shanghai to its suburban airport. It makes the 19 mile trip in seven minutes. With Shanghai traffic, the trip by bus can take hours.||wikimedia/Alex Needham&&

11||The unique track Shanghai’s maglev train runs on. Shanghai’s maglev uses magnets to levitate itself above the track even when the train is at rest in the station. ||flickr/maxim303&&

12||The current fastest train in the world is the Central Japan Railway Company’s experimental maglev in Yamanashi, Japan. In 2003 it reached a top speed of 361 mph.||flickr/Globalism Pictures&&
13||Another photo of Japan’s experimental maglev.||Natsuki Sakai/Newscom&&
14||Another photo of Japan’s experimental maglev.||Natsuki Sakai/Newscom&&

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