China has substantially reinvented itself in just a few decades, going from a closed-off communist bastion to hosting much of the world's manufacturing capacity. That foreign investment, plus buying up U.S. debt, has allowed China to launch itself into the 21st century, building all sorts of projects from bullet trains to mega highways to a very impressive Olympic Village for the 2008 Olympics.
China is currently gunning for the record of world's fastest train, and claim that a recent 268 mph broke a world record. So what record exactly did it break?
All land-speed records, whether it be for planes, trains, or automobiles, are divided into classes. The current record holder for conventional is the French V150, which went 575 kph, or about 357 mph. However, that train, so far as I know, does not operate a daily rail service. The fastest maglev train belongs to Japan, which went 581 kph, or 362 mph. That is the absolute fastest train ever.
China is claiming that its new, home-built bullet running train between Hongqiao and Hangzhou achieved a top speed of 262 mph, but will run at a more leisurely 220 mph on a regular basis. That means the 126-mile trip will take just 45 minutes, with tickets costing about $12. On my recent excursion to New York City, it took the train over 90 minutes to cover just 80 miles from New Haven.
The Chinese hope to take the train up to 312 mph eventually. Plenty fast, but hardly record-breaking. So what record did China break? Perhaps it is the fastest Chinese-built train ever?
I guess it doesn't matter, because China also has the world's most extensive high-speed rail network. They might not have the absolute speed record now, but give them a few more years and they will. America has a lot of catching up to do.