Report: China's High-Speed Train System Derailed

Monday, 25 Apr 2011 03:29 PM

By Martin Gould

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China’s high-speed rail project, which President Barack Obama lauded as a model for the United States — is in ruins, The Washington Post reports.

China, high-speed rail, Obama,
Workers sit in Beijing's high-speed rail station. (Getty Images Photo)
Speeds on the bullet train have been cut by 30 mph to improve safety, energy efficiency and affordability, the railway ministry is $271 million in debt, construction plans are under review, and the man at the head of the project has been fired, according to the Post.

And the system could drain China’s economy for years into the future.

“Rather than demonstrating the advantages of centrally planned long-term investment, as its foreign admirers sometimes suggested, China’s bullet-train experience shows what can go wrong when an unelected elite, influenced by corrupt opportunists, gives orders that all must follow,” the Post reports.

Liu Zhijun urged for speeds in excess of 200 mph when he took over the bullet train program in 2003. “Seize the opportunity, build more railways, and build them fast,” he wrote at the time.

But Liu was fired in February for “severe violations of discipline,” Chinese talk for embezzlement, according to the Post.

Obama touted the Chinese system in his State of the Union speech in January. "China is building faster trains and newer airports," he said. "Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation's infrastructure, they gave us a D."

He announced plans that would give 80 percent of Americans high speed rail within 25 years, saying: “For some trips, it will be faster than flying — without the pat-down."


But since then, three freshmen Republican governors have turned down federal dollars for high-speed rail for fear of foisting a long-term debt burden on their budgets.


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