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Why China Has the Best Railways in the World


Hey, you like speed? Well, China has the largest network of high-speed trains in the world.It stretches a whopping 15,500 miles all over the country. But while that all sounds impressive,I can't help but wonder why they’d spend a fortune on building such a vast bullet train network when airplanes exist? Well, here’s what I found out!Let's say you need to get from Beijing to Hong Kong. I bet the first idea that comes to your mind is, "Why not catch a plane? It’ll be the fastest way to get there!" But are you sure about that?


But the most important thing is the price! You can hand over as much as $500 for a Beijing-Hong Kong plane trip. But the same journey by train will cost you much less: around $150. As for the travel time, a train trip is 5 hours longer, that's true. But you should remember that the 3 hours and 40 minutes it takes to get from Beijing to Hong Kong is only the duration of the flight. If you add here all the delays, security checks, commute to the airport…commute from the other airport. Well, you get the picture.


Nowadays almost all Chinese travelers pick high-speed trains over planes if they need to travel less than 500 miles, or about the distance between San Diego and Sacramento,California. While travel time doesn't differ that much (considering airport security checks,train-airport-plane-train again), the train ticket price is usually twice or even three times lower! For example, to get from Hong Kong to Changsha by plane, you need 3 hours and 35 minutes and up to $330. But if you opt for the bullet train, you'll save both time and money: the journey will take you 3 hours and 12 minutes and will cost just about 76 bucks.


But how does China manage to keep the costs so low when compared to the US and Europe?
Well, salaries in China are significantly lower than in the West, which means less money goes to construction workers. Also, high-speed railroads are built with the help of local materials, and that's great for both saving money and supporting the regional economy.But the most important thing is that all railroad parts, such as tracks and embankments, are all standardized. This means that producers can just press "copy-paste" to make the next bridge part, which, as you understand, significantly cuts the costs.


What's more, Chinese high-speed rail lines include a lot of viaducts. Even being costly themselves, they both save farmland and help trains move across rivers. On top of that,there's one trick that makes their production cheaper too. Yep, it’s that standardization thing yet again! What I mean is that you probably won't see a breathtaking variety of different viaduct designs. Also, bridge beams are either 78 or 104 feet long, and no other choices are available. By the way, all these beams are produced in temporary factories located along the future railway, so there’s no need to transport the beams for distances over 5 miles.


And last but not least, China doesn't only have the biggest high-speed train network on the planet but also the world's fastest train! Shanghai Maglev (aka Shanghai Transrapid) runs from Shanghai Pudong Airport to Longyang Road Station, where passengers can interchange to Shanghai Metro Line 2 to get to the city center. The train's top speed reaches a mind-blowing 268 miles per hour, so it takes just 8 minutes to travel 19 miles! However, to get to or from the airport, most passengers still prefer to use the subway since it’s a much cheaper alternative to the Maglev train. But, hey, if time is money, then I’d probably be willing to pay for the convenience! Plus, how cool would it be to look out the window while zooming by at top speeds!