China is planning some serious upgrades to its public transportation system in the next few years. By 2020, the country hopes to have increased its high-speed railway coverage by 18,650 miles. The project will cost an estimated 3.5 trillion yuan, or about $503 billion USD. Not only will the population be more mobile, but the rails will significantly cut down on carbon emissions and air pollution.
Adding on 18,650 miles to a railway system is a humongous feat and difficult to comprehend. The expansion would be roughly the equivalent of driving from New York City to Los Angeles six and a half times. It will also connect 80 percent of the country’s biggest cities and leave room for further rural expansion.
Much of the existing and future high-speed rails are located in coastal and eastern regions of China. Yet, access to the west and poorer regions of the country are being considered for future investments, despite the fact that they will not be as profitable. “We believe these railway lines will break even over time as the flow of people and goods experience fast growth,” said Yang Yudong, administrator of the National Railway Administration.
As a global observer, one of the most appealing aspects of the project is how much air pollution will be slashed by connecting a bustling population to efficient public transit. China has been battling smog for decades, and taking vehicles off the streets could be the piece of the puzzle needed to make lasting improvements.