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From: Fortune Magazine|
This year Beijing will spend $50 billion on what will soon be the world's biggest high-speed train system. Here's how it works.
When lunch break comes at the construction site between Shanghai and Suzhou in eastern China, Xi Tong-li and his fellow laborers bolt for some nearby trees and the merciful slivers of shade they provide. It's 95 degrees and humid -- a typically oppressive summer day in southeastern China -- but it's not just mad dogs and Englishmen who go out in the midday sun.
Xi is among a vast army of workers in China -- according to Beijing's Railroad Ministry, 110,000 were laboring on a single line, the Beijing-Shanghai route, at the beginning of 2009 -- who are building one of the largest infrastructure projects in history: a nationwide high-speed passenger rail network that, once completed, will be the largest, fastest, and most technologically sophisticated in the world.
Creating a rail system in a country of 1.3 billion people guarantees that the scale will be gargantuan. Almost 16,000 miles of new track will have been laid when the build-out is done in 2020. China will consume about 117 million tons of concrete just to construct the buttresses on which the tracks will be carried. The total amount of rolled steel on the Beijing-to-Shanghai line alone would be enough to construct 120 copies of the "Bird's Nest" -- the iconic Olympic stadium in Beijing. The top speed on trains that will run from Beijing to Shanghai will approach 220 miles an hour. Last year passengers in China made 1.4 billion rail journeys, and Chinese railroad officials expect that in a nation whose major cities are already choked with traffic, the figure could easily double over the next decade.
Construction on the vast multibillion-dollar project commenced in 2005 and will run through 2020. This year China will invest $50 billion in its new high-speed passenger rail system, more than double the amount spent in 2008. By the time the project is completed, Beijing will have pumped $300 billion into it. This effort is of more than passing historical interest. It can be seen properly as part and parcel of China's economic rise as a developing nation modernizing at warp speed, catching up with the rich world and in some instances -- like high-speed rail -- leapfrogging it entirely.
But this project symbolizes even more than that. This monumental infrastructure build-out has become the centerpiece of China's effort to navigate the global financial crisis and the ensuing recession.
The whole article can be found over here:
http://money.cnn.com/2009/08/03/ ... ection=money_latest