Fuxing – the world’s fastest bullet train – returns to full speed
Back in 2011, China’s fleet of high-speed trains had their metaphorical wings metaphorically clipped. Originally reaching speeds of 350 km/h, the trains were reduced to top speeds of “just” 300km/h after two crashes that killed 40 people.
The fallout from the crashes was significant. While commuters had to deal with trains which were a little bit slower, the case also led to a corruption investigation into the railway ministry, culminating in two senior officials being handed suspended death sentences.
The country is now trying to put that unpleasantness behind it. From next week, certain trains will be restored to their former glory, and they’ve got a new name to celebrate. “Fuxing”, the Chinese word for “rejuvenation”, bringing it in line with the government’s slogan for redevelopment. That should ensure that British tourists feel right at home when they hear residents moaning about the Fuxing trains, at least.
It may not stop at 350km/h, either. China’s rail operator is supposedly looking into upgrading the track, allowing trains to go even faster, pushing speeds of 400km/h. The government feels confident that the trains are safer than they were in 2011 thanks to improvements to the monitoring system, which should allow the trains to slow to a halt automatically in the event of an emergency.
350km/h is, to put things into context, very fast – a similar speed to the upcoming HS2 line, which will whisk British passengers from London to Edinburgh in three-and-a-half hours. Well, probably will. HS2 has been hit by problem after problem and still faces some stiff opposition.
Still, nobody denies such speed is possible anymore, and that’s progress of a sort: back when the Liverpool to Manchester railway was opened in 1830, there were fears that speeds of 30mph would cause breathing difficulty or damage to passengers’ eyes. These fears weren’t helped by the death of former secretary of state William Huskisson, crushed by train at the opening of the line. The fact that we now argue the infrastructure toss terms of cost and nimbyism is probably better, all things considered.