(ECNS) -- CNBC on Wednesday presented two sets of data regarding railway construction in a mini-documentary. "The United States ranks below many industrialized nations when it comes to ridership on its passenger rail," the outlet said, while that of China is far more outstanding, according to figures.
“Perhaps this is because these countries also spend a lot more on rail infrastructure than the U.S, with China spending the most out of any country,” CNBC added, whose figure shows the United States falls below one-tenth of China's investment.
The Wall Street Journal published a similar comparison in late June. “Since 2008, China has rapidly built up its high-speed rail network. The U.S. in that time, has had several high-speed rail projects shelved or delayed,” Wall Street Journal said.
China has the largest high-speed rail network in the world, spanning over 40,000 kilometers, the Wall Street Journal said. Of the 10 fastest trains in the world, four are in China. And China’s busiest high-speed train, the Beijing-Shanghai Rail, runs 217 miles per hour. The U.S., however, tells a much different story, the Wall Street Journal added, “ Its high-speed rail system spans 735 kilometers, and its fastest train, Amtrak’s Acela Express, goes just 150 miles per hour, and only for a few minutes on part of the track.”
The American media also explored the reasons why the United States lags behind China in high-speed rail technology, and they believe that an important difference lies in the tracks.
“In the case of the U.S., a lot of the Northeast Corridors are based on hundreds of years of the old tracks. There are also tunnels and the curvatures and bridges that are really old, that cannot really allow the trains to run at the faster speed,” Dr. Chen Zhenhua, associate professor in City and Regional Planning, the Ohio State University, told the Wall Street Journal.
These tracks were originally built for freight and passenger trains to use at the same time, so they have many points of intersections and crossings, and the Acela runs on this track. But China has tracks that are dedicated to high-speed rail, the Wall Street Journal said.
The Wall Street Journal believes that another reason why American trains cannot achieve their maximum speeds is due to the aging track system in the United States, which struggles to support the latest train technologies.
“Even though the trains are able to run at 186, they'll never see more than 160 miles per hour, because the infrastructure is still being developed isn’t quite there yet,” Scott Sherin, chief commercial officer of U.S., Alstom, said.
In fact, apart from high-speed rail, the subway infrastructure in the United States is also in dire need of upgrading. For example, the 191st Street Station on the first train line in Manhattan, New York, is located 180 feet underground. The subway tunnels are dimly lit and littered with garbage, while the ground is covered in stains, and the walls are cracked and peeling.
But investment in the U.S. rail is picking up, CNBC said. Railcar manufacturing revenue in the U.S., including for freight trains, is expected to reach $2.9 billion by 2028. Meanwhile, investment in passenger rolling stock, which includes high-speed rail, light rail, metro, passenger coaches and locomotives, is expected to increase at a rate of 4 . 7 percent per year between 2021 and 2026 across North America.
“A big boost to the rail industry comes from the infrastructure investment and Jobs Act, which was passed in 2021 and designates $66 billion to improve the nation's rail system,” CNBC said.
However, some American experts point out that these investments are still far from sufficient.
“The $66 billion that the federal government has put forth for passenger rail is a huge boost, but it's probably half to get to where we need to be on par with the rest of the world,” said William Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief of Railway Age.