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China 'in discussions' about high-speed rail lines to London, Germany – and the US

There's thinking big, and then there's thinking bat-shite crazy

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Chinese officials have outlined a massive – no, that's an understatement; make that mind-bogglingly Brobdingnagian – vision of a globe-girdling high-speed rail network that would have as one of its legs a line that would run from northern China up through Russia, under the North Pacific, through Alaska, then Canada, and finally into the contiguous United States.

"Right now we're already in discussions. Russia has already been thinking about this for many years," said railway expert Wang Mengshu, The Guardian reported on Thursday based on an article by Beijing Times reporter Han Xu.

The China-to-US link alone would entail laying about 13,000km (8,079mi) of track, with 200km (124mi) running through an underwater tunnel beneath the Bering Strait – that's a hair under four times the length of the Channel Tunnel. If the train could manage to average 350km (220mph) per hour, the trip would take less than two days.

The China Daily reports that the technology for the tunnel has been developed, and will be used to build a high-speed rail tunnel between the province of Fujian, on China's southeast coast, to Taiwan.

While the China-to-US line is ambitious indeed, it's only part of China's high-speed musings. Also under discussion or planning is a line that reaches from London to China via Paris, Warsaw, Kiev, and Moscow, at which point it would split into two lines, one running through Kazakhstan and the second through eastern Siberia.

Then there's the line that would reach to Germany, beginning in the western-China city of Urumqi and running through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Turkey. The final line seems quite modest by comparison, beginning in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming and ending up in Singapore.

No mention was made of the freight-carrying capacity of the high-speed system, just a glowing description of passengers enjoying "multi-country scenery" (多国风光), but we would not at all be surprised if the four-line system were also used to rapidly shoot Chinese manufactured goods to the four corners of the earth.

One problem remains, however. As Wang explains, "It is difficult to raise huge amounts of money."

We at Vulture Annex are not holding our breaths – or, for that matter, saving our pennies for a ticket on The 21st Century Orient Express. ®

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