Model both as a toy and as a way of doing things. The high speed rail of China and its universal development in all corners of its country is a model that the Colorado Hyperloop could copy. But before we wholeheartedly take its at face value lets look at some current news on why they build these system:
URUMQI, China — The brand-new bullet train slices past the edge of the Gobi desert, through gale-swept grasslands and past snowy peaks, a high-altitude, high-speed and high-tech manifestation of China’s newly re-imagined Silk Road meant to draw the country’s restive west ever tighter into Beijing’s embrace.
With growing determination, China is spreading its wings to the west, across its own, vast and resource-rich province of Xinjiang, and toward Central Asia and its huge reserves of oil and natural gas.
The $23 billion, high-speed train link, which is still being tested in winds that can sometimes reach up to 135 mph, is just one symbol of that broader determination: to cement China’s control over its Muslim-majority Xinjiang region through investment and economic growth, secure important sources of energy and escape any risk of encirclement by U.S. allies to the east.
So it is a tool of energy production and extraction and social hegemony. The United States did the same in its history. But the Colorado Hyperloop might seem to initially be a human transport system only. In reality it will be a human transportation vehicle but also will be a energy (with solar panels along the top of the Hyperloop tubes) and quite possibly a efficient material transportation system similar to the paper delivery tubes at banks.
Another development besides above ground trains from Shanghai to London is the incredible subway of Beijing.
Riding Beijing’s subway end to end: 88km of queues and crushes on a 20p ticket
Beijing’s metro system has already grown bigger than the London Underground – and by 2020 it will more than double in size again.
Work on the Chinese capital’s first line started in the 1960s and the vast majority of it opened in the last decade. Yet, at 465km long, it has already outgrown the Tube network by more than 50km. By 2020, an extra 400bn yuan (£40bn) of investment will see it more than double to 1,000km, according to Chinese media. The addition of 17 new lines will make it one of the world’s longest networks.
Each day 9.75 million passengers ride the lines across Beijing: nearly three times as many as take the London Tube and twice as many as use the New York system. The subway’s phenomenal expansion reflects that of the city it serves. Over the last decade or so, Beijing has grown by roughly half a million inhabitants each year – the equivalent of adding the entire populations of Sheffield or Tucson annually. The city is already home to 21 million; by 2020, a report warned last year, it is likely to have added another four million, on a conservative estimate.
The subway is clean and punctual and has seen no large scale fatal transport disasters in recent years, though several workers have died during construction since 2007 and two passenger have died due to escalator collapse and electrocution, in addition to a number of suicides. (In 1969, the year it opened, a spate of fires killed between three and six people and injured at least 100 more, resulting in a two-year closure for reconstruction.)
But the strains it now faces reflect the country’s challenge in maintaining a decent quality of life in increasingly packed cities. At Xierqi, one of the busiest stations, platform attendants help to push commuters into carriages during rush hour. There’s a little shoving at the doors, but it’s a remarkably calm and polite scene given the crush of bodies.
Mao declared the city needed a subway after he visited Moscow. But the system was initially intended more for civil defence than commuter transport, said Wang. In the event of air raids – like the US bombardments of North Korea and Vietnam – the trains would be used to evacuate residents to the Western Hills, on the capital’s outskirts. From there, they could be dispatched overground to safer parts of China. A sample line was even built at China’s atomic test site at Lop Nor, to check the tunnels would withstand nuclear bombs.
The engineering team was supposed to travel to Moscow to study its metro. But as bilateral relations deteriorated, the Soviet Union withdrew its experts and halted cooperation. Wang and his colleagues finished the designs of the subway without ever having ridden on one.
China’s biggest cities are struggling to cope with their swollen populations, choked by traffic jams and pollution. They have attracted huge numbers of migrants – to clean the streets, construct homes and staff restaurants – but have not adequately catered for them or their children.
Now the government wants to accelerate urbanisation to boost domestic consumption; city dwellers spend more than rural residents. But its new strategy also seeks to tackle some of the problems that have emerged, creating a more sustainable model for city life.
The spending spree on urban rail follows similar binges on highways and high-speed trains, and will help to shore up economic growth. In just four months of 2012, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s economic planning body, approved 840bn yuan worth of underground and light rail construction; 22 cities already have subways and another 16 will have systems operating by the end of 2018. One official has said subway networks across China will total 7,000km of track by 2020.
Improved public transport should also reduce smog and traffic. Reforms to household registration will improve migrant workers’ access to services. But they are also designed to encourage people to move to smaller cities: the bigger the city, the harder it will be to register there. Even so, there is little doubt that the lure of the capital will endure.
“Ever since the 1980s, the [Beijing] government has been trying to limit the fast growing population, but all these efforts have failed. China has 1.3 billion people. Big cities like Beijing are bound to attract a significant part of the huge population,” said Li Tie, director general of the NDRC’s China Centre for Urban Development.
Even Wang, the tunnelling expert, believes much of the answer to China’s urban transport problems lies above ground. He would like to see more bus use and new rail links between the busiest train stations. He is unimpressed by the frenzy of excavation around the country: monorails cost around 150m yuan per kilometre to construct, he said, compared to the 500-700m yuan required per kilometre of subway.
“Second-, third-, fourth-tier cities … those cities don’t need to build subways,” he said. “Even if they can afford to build them, they can’t afford to run them. But a lot of places think that if they have a subway, then they are a big city.”
Anyway, it is an incredible Guardian article. Lets home Colorado can learn from from the Chinese.