Skip to comments.The Backlash Is Brewing Against Chinese High-Speed Rail: Here's Why It's In Trouble
Posted on 01/14/2011 7:46:02 AM PST by SeekAndFind
I want to elaborate, just a bit, on the point I made in my latest China Economic Review column about Chinas high-speed rail investment, since it had to be cut short there due to space restrictions.
Currently, Chinas conventional rail system is stretched to capacity carrying two commodities: coal and people. And as Damien Ma, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, notes in a post today at The Atlantic, passengers takes politically priority over coal, requiring much of the nations coal to be transported by truck, leading to monumental traffic jams on Chinas roads (including the famous 10-day, 62-mile backup outside of Beijing last August, which attracted worldwide attention and mainly consisted of coal trucks).
The theory is that building a national high-speed rail network will put all that passenger traffic on the fast track, as it were, and open up capacity on the existing rail network to move not only more coal but also other types of goods, thus relieving the road backups and boosting both productivity and regional development.
The problem is that high-speed rail is expensive both to build and to operate, requiring high ticket prices to break even. The bulk of the long-distance passenger traffic, especially during the peak holiday periods, is migrant workers for whom the opportunity cost of time is relatively low. Even if they could afford a high-speed train ticket which is doubtful given their limited incomes they would probably prefer to conserve their cash and take a slower, cheaper train. If that proves true, the new high-speed lines will only incur losses while providing little or no relief to the existing transportation network.
Unfortunately, that seems to be precisely the situation thats shaping up this Chinese New Year (the years peak travel season),
(Excerpt) Read more at businessinsider.com ...
SOME PROBLEMS :
* The opening of more fast train services has led to fewer regular trains being available for budget-conscious passengers.
* A new luxury sleeper service between Shanghai and Chengdu costs an astonishing US$352 (easily comparable and possibly more expensive than an air ticket).
But many travelers cannot afford the tickets, causing a waste of transport capacity
* Instead of buying expensive high-speed rail tickets, migrants are instead opting to take the bus
* Long-distance bus traffic over Chinese New Year, the article notes, is expected to increase nearly 12% from the same period last year, requiring 70,000 more buses on the roads.
* Rather than capturing lower-end traffic from slower trains and buses, it appears the new high-speed lines are drawing higher-end traffic away from Chinas airlines.
Fast trains have forced some airlines to cancel short-distance flights along high-speed rail lines.
The definition of “high-speed” is now down to about 70MPH here now. Just about what it meant in 1860.
I like to drive.
To me, nothing says freedom like cars and guns.
I figured China’s internal railway coal transportation stunk. That is why they buy so much Australian coal. It gets shipped right to the coastal ports near most of the ChiCom industries. This way the ChiCom rail system doesn’t get burdened
But transporting coal into the Beijing area by truck.? Muy primativo
The River Raisin is like the battle of Goliad. Don’t hear about it because they surrendered and were butchered. The reason people remember the Alamo, Thermopylae and Masada is because they either fought to the death or chose suicide rather than capture. History is weird.
They assumed humane treatment at the hands of the British which made surrender an easier option. Had they been fighting the indians alone I suspect they would have fought to the last man.
“High Speed Rail” is “very fast”;
that is, it is very fast at becoming the “Concorde” of the current era
- a very expensive high tech boondoggle
that the political class loves
that simply drains public treasuries
because it never gains the real popular appeal its advocates promised for it
- even when dictators control so much of a society that builds one of these boondoggles.
“I like to drive.
To me, nothing says freedom like cars and guns.”
You probably wouldn’t like driving between New York City and Boston. You’ll have to trust me on that one.
The traffic in NYC and Connecticut (and outside of Boston) can be backed up for MILES at a time, for no particular reason other than a minor accident or construction. At other times it can get so dense that it just “can’t move along” very well.
I run the Amtrak passenger trains for a living (started out in freight, and worked commuter, too). Not the “Acela” trains, however, just the “regional” (i.e., “conventional”) equipment. Been doing it since 1979, may even get to retire this year.
I never cared for the “high speed” stuff and have never worked on it (too fast for this old guy!), but there seems to be adequate ridership on the trains. Some run “light” (depends on the time of day and day of the week), at other times, every seat is sold out (sometimes even oversold, which creates problems for the trainmen).
And folks seem willing to “pay the premium” to ride the high-end trains, even though the price is nearly double of a “regional” coach ticket. In the Northeast Corridor, at least, there exists a sufficient market for such services.
The regional trains can run full, or nearly empty — again, depends on the time of day and day of the week.
But, empty or full, the trains have to run to “maintain the schedule”. That’s what running a passenger-carrying service is about (ANY type of common-carrier service, not limited to rail).
I don’t write the above as an “advocate of high-speed rail” — quite the contrary, I’ve seen how it works in a place like the Corridor (where their _is_ a market for it), and can see why it will be a complete waste of public funding and resources in other areas where the notions of “emerging corridors” are little more than a pipedream.
But with all the brouhaha here on FR about high-speed rail, I’ve at least had the opportunity to observe it in action over the past ten years that’s in been in operation in the northeast.
The points made in the original article are valid. You don’t see the poor workin’ folk on the Acelas — heck, even the price of coach seats on the regional trains seems overpriced to me, but I get my seat paid for by the Company.
I’m sure the Chinese are proud to point to the high speed trains, but the author of the article is dead-on when he says that the rail priorities in China should be towards freight, based on the American model. At least, the _old_ American model (based on what I’ve seen of the condition of freight operation in the northeastern USA lately!)....
But again, I assure you, no matter how much you like driving, next time you’re sitting in traffic on I-95 wondering when it’s going to move again, just watch that train go rollin’ by over on the mainline!
Funny about that corporate profit and war. Like I said, "history is weird", huh?
I've just come to the conclusion that it's not corporations or weapons or the climate change, but men that are evil and greedy fighting against those that would oppose the evil doers and thieves. Just like today.
I believe "the Who" stated it best, "Ave! duci novo, similis duci seneci"
Which means "highspeed" hasn't changed much since people first moved into reindeer country about 75,000 years ago!
The closer these boondoggles come to reality the more deflated becomes the definition of “high speed”.
You’re right. Most of these things will be lucky to make 70mph.