China plans to build an ambitious 13,000 km rail line to operate bullet trains to America through Russia passing through a tunnel underneath the Pacific Ocean to reach the continental US via Alaska and Canada.
The proposed line beginning from China’s north east could go through Russia’s eastern Siberia, the Bering Strait, Alaska, Canada and then reach the contiguous US, Wang Mengshu, a tunnel and railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the Chinese official media.
Once the line is put to use, bullet trains can run at 350 km per hour, enabling passengers to travel from northeastern China to the US in less than two days, he said, adding that Russia, which is heavily dependent on rail transport like China, is also progressively advocating the idea.
Crossing the Bering Strait in between Russia and Alaska would require about 200km of undersea tunnel, the Beijing Times newspaper reported, citing Wang.
“Right now we’re already in discussions. Russia has already been thinking about this for many years,” Wang said.
The project – nicknamed the ‘China-Russia plus America line’ – would run for 13,000km, about 3,000km further than the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The entire trip would take two days, with the train travelling at an average of 350kmh.
Meanwhile, the official said the construction of ambitious Trans-Asian Railway Network connecting China with Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore is set to commence next month.
The plan will begin with the construction of a 30-km long tunnel, stated to be the longest in Asia connecting China with Myanmar.
The engineering difficulties equivalent to those found in the construction of rail lines on the permafrost in Tibet, Wang said.
China has already built a rail network up to Xigaze close to Arunachal Pradesh border.
China has completed 11028 km of high speed train network and another 12000 km tracks under construction.
Chinese officials in 2010 spoke of China’s wish building a high speed train network connecting India and Pakistan.
The National Development and Reform Commission approved the project, and engineers and worker representatives have come up with techniques to overcome geological complexities that could pose challenges, Wang said.
“Another important project, the Nujiang River Rail Bridge, will also be launched soon,” Wang added, noting that both the bridge and the tunnel are elements of the Dali-Ruili Railway, which will extend 330 km to link China with its neighbour Myanmar.
China has already commenced a oil and gas pipeline from Myanmar. The rail lines constitute the southern part of the Trans-Asian Railway, which was initiated in the 1960s and began to take shape after 18 countries endorsed an agreement in November 2006, it said.
Some sections of the railway suitable for high-speed operation will allow trains to run at 250 km per hour. Other sections will hold speeds to a maximum of 180 kph, Wang said.
Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang who is currently touring Africa, has offered to construct a host of high speed railway.
While railway construction engineers are pushing for more grand projects, some officials have warned the government to think seriously about them as the Chinese railway is in red with losses to the tune of billions of dollars.
Experts in Beijing Jiaotong University said China should make sure it has enough money for such a massive project.
“China’s railway sector is still being haunted by deep debts. Therefore, even with the government’s support, it must persuade banks to lend a colossal amount of money,” he said.
China could loose out from these ambitions railways plans as it will take decades for the countries where the rail lines are laid with Chinese money could take decades to pay back, Zhao Jian, a profession at the same University said.
Other Chinese officials consider the rail network construction as a stimulus to revive growth rates of Chinese economy which slowed down to 7.8 per cent last year.