I’m starting this blog posting at 277 km/hr on a very fast train with 16 carriages and 100 seats per carriage. The train is full. Where am I? Not in Japan or France. I’m somewhere between Wuxi and Shuzhou in China, where public transport operates at a speed and efficiency that is a quantum leap above the XPT train from Melbourne to City that I’ve caught a few times. And these trains don’t just go short distances. In a couple of weeks I’ll be travelling 1200 kms in less than four hours from Wuhan to Guangzhou.
Where land is at a premium the solution has been simple – build an elevated railway over the top of the existing tracks. 20th century trains below. 21st century very fast trains above.
The fast train service is operated like an airline. Passengers go through a security check at the station. There is a large waiting hall, and train access through a boarding gate. Passengers are only let onto the platform 5 to 10 minutes before their train is due. To speed up access to the train, the platform is marked with numbers, each number corresponding to a carriage. The train pulls up so that the carriage doors line up exactly with numbers. Unlike in a plane, the leg room is sensational. A woman across from me is straining to reach the keys of her laptop perched on the tray table. My laptop is on my lap, the screen pushed back, and its still ten cm away from the seat in front. Try that in a plane!
This is the sort of public transport that can take planes out of the sky. The emissions per km are much lower. They are more convenient, operating from city centres, not on the outskirts of town. Taking into account the trip to and from the airport, my 1200 km trip in a couple of weeks will probably take no more time than if I was flying.
Signing off at 335 km/hr.