How China built the world’s largest high-speed rail network
China's first high-speed railway started operating in 2008 between Beijing and Tianjin. Since then, the country has built a network that spans nearly 40,000km (25,000 miles) and is now the world’s largest for bullet trains that can travel up to 350km/h (220mph). The network is getting bigger, with plans to extend it to 50,000km by 2025, and 200,000km by 2035.
How it compares
China’s high-speed rail network is bigger than the combined length of other comparable networks.
World’s fastest trains
Shanghai Maglev, the world’s fastest commercially operated train with a top speed of 431km/h, uses magnetic levitation (maglev), rather than conventional track.
Fastest ever built?
In July 2021, China unveiled a maglev train capable of travelling at a top speed of 600km/h, “the fastest ground vehicle available globally”, according to state media. CRRC Group, China’s biggest train maker, has yet to release a detailed plan for commercialising the train.
Associate Creative Director Marcelo Duhalde
Edited by Andrew London and Robyn Schorn
Cover image by Victor Sanjinez
Sources: World Bank Group, National Bureau of Statistics of China, 中国高速铁路的发展, Statista
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