China's New Bullet Train Breaks Speed Record; Makes Amtrak Cry

By Brett Israel | December 31, 2009 11:30 am

China’s Harmony train can now boast of being the fastest long distance passenger train on the planet. The Harmony express raced 1,100 km in less than three hours on Saturday, travelling from Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province, to the central city of Wuhan. The journey previously took at least 11 hours [Financial Times]. That’s almost like traveling from New York City to Indianapolis by train in three hours.  Even if you encountered a two and a half hour delay, which happened to one unlucky load of Harmony riders this week, you’d still make great time.

See the train in action in the video below:

The train will run 56 times per day and the cheapest fare is 490 yuan (roughly $72), however many slower trains along the same route will be axed to help cover costs.

Harmony reached a top speed of 217 miles per hour (350 km per hour) on its debut, bumping off Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train and France’s TGV, both of which can travel at 186 miles per hour (300 km per hour). Embarrassingly for the United States, Amtrak’s Acela service takes three and a half hours to travel the 186 miles (300 km) between New York and Boston.

For a look at Chinese high speed rail, both present and future, and the state of U.S. high speed rail spending, click over to Next Big Future.

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Video: YouTube / itnnews

MORE ABOUT: China, transporation
  • cino

    Airlines, Auto companies and Oil companies hold Americans hostage from high speed rail. It is pathetic that we are forced to sit by and watch America get left behind in 21 century development. Our roads and bridges are falling a part while we spend hundreds of billions on “Foreign Aid”.

    Then we beg a communist nation like China for a handout.

  • JoLynn

    I agree with cino … why or why are we in America so blind! High speed rail would be wonderful in America, not to mention a fantastic way to travel. It’s hard not to believe that America will soon be a third-world country.

  • Cory

    Our lack of high-speed rail will doom us, by God!

  • John

    In fifty years the USA’s infrastructure will resemble a third world nation, we can see the structures falling apart today. It’s all timing, and the 21st century belongs to China, and India, of that I have no doubt.

  • Jamal

    When was the last time all of you traveled by train instead of an airplane?

  • Eamon

    Here’s a question:

    How many stops did the Harmony Express on its debut, and how far apart on average were the stations?

    In other words, do the scheduling and the physical set-up of the line favour high speeds?

    Even without that information I’d be inclined to think so, as the CRH2 and CRH3 trains that use the line are German and Japanese respectively. That also makes the claim about the Shinkansen being beaten a bit silly, as it’s been beaten by…the Japanese Shinkansen.

  • Eamon

    Jamal, I live in Japan – so it’s usually the Train, though for long-distance journeys – the plane can be cheaper.

  • bacillus

    Jamal, I took Amtrak Cincinnati to Indianapolis Aug 2009.
    I would love to see a seriously funded and prioritized high speed rail network.
    I find it amazing that our government spends so much money on nation building across the globe, but not here at home. The US desperately needs upgrades to our rail infrastructure as well as bridges airports and electrical grid.

  • Christina Viering

    Cry Amtrak, cry.

  • Larry Esser

    Well said, bacillus. It will be twenty or thirty years before the US has anything like Europe, Japan, or China in the rail department. Obama has talked seriously about high-speed networks here, and this should be one of the very first government projects (along with energy source and distribution improvements) that the US gets started on. With the economy down and the job situation so dire for so many, this is an ideal time to organize and implement a major national project like this.

  • Mike

    Trains would be so cool here. I buzzed all over Spain on some amazing fast and nice trains.

  • John

    Cry Amtrak cry. What a ridiculously moronic comment showing a complete lack of knowledge about US rail travel and restrictions on passenger operations. Unlike an Amtrak train, this Chinese train undoubtedly travels on tracks dedicated to passenger service and is unencumbered by frequent station stops and commingling with freight train operations. Add to that the safety and operating regulations imposed by the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak, nor any other rail service in this country, can ever operate trains this fast.

  • badnicolez

    The next high-speed train in the US will be from LA to Vegas so Harry Reid can try to get re-elected. Just what this country needs, a $9B way for residents of LA to get their gamble on quicker. How about LA to San Jose? LA to San Diego? LA to Phoenix? Chicago to Detroit? Chicago to St. Louis? Boston to NY? NY to Washington DC? NY to Philadelphia?

    The $780B stimulus could have been used to actually rebuild our infrastructure (or build a complete high-speed train infrastructure throughout the country, which actually would have created some decent jobs and left us less vulnerable to terrorist attack by airliner), but instead we’re getting skate parks and tennis courts. Awesome.

  • Bealz

    In America, the impact on the environment would prevent this from ever being built. along with the danger to the local populations the rails pass through.
    In China, bothering the local endangered bunny population doesn’t enter into the equation, and killing off a few thousand locals in an accident just eases the food/employment shortages.

  • John M

    High speed trains are great 20th century technology. Great 21st century technology is to stop spending billions to move humans around. Some commenters point to the efficiency of trains, but that is no match to the efficiencies of living closer to work, telecommuting, and so on.

    Why do people have to travel 1100 km in 3 hours? Is it for meetings which are just an exchange of ideas that can be done virtually and almost instantaneously for almost zero cost? Is it for physical work that closer people can do or be trained to do or a one time move rather than commute 6 hours per day or per week?

  • Dave E.

    It kills me to read about all the great projects and improvments going on around the world while America just flushes its money down the toilet. Consider the fact, for a moment, that congress put through a $780 billion dollar so called “stimulus” bill. That’s $780 billion dollars that, so far, I have yet to see do much of anything. If the government had just distributed that money among US Citizens atleast we would all be able to go out and buy nice fuel efficient vehicles. All I have seen is a few new roads in Illinois that before repair made some dirt roads seem luxurious. Roads that should have been repaired with the ample amount of taxpayer money from Illinois in the first place. So the question is, if we have the money, we have the brains, and we have the will, why doesn’t anything that should be routine get done?

    Simple, we have one too many crooks in our government and high places. They have put us in some seriouse debt, and continue to kill this country. America is not dead, yet, but with the way things are going I fear a major collapse. This isn’t a question of trains, it’s other countries showing us they atleast use their money for something useful.

  • MRB

    Its now 20 years since the TGV record was 515km/h (320mph) (1990) which is the equivalent one-off speed to the Chinese “record”.

    I think the Chinese know that its much easier to copy old technology like that than to innovate. Still it seems to impress people who don’t know about technology.

  • Peter R. Limburg

    I agree with those commentators who favor a resuscitation of our sadly neglected passenger rail system. JAMAL raises a valid question, but I’d say to him that government policy discourages train travel. Shifting subsidies from air travel and highways to rail service would do wonders to improve the system. By the way, I travel by train when I can–it’s not easy, what with interruptions in service, discontinuous and tortuous long-distance routes (to go from New York to Chicago by AMTRAK, for instance, one has to travel through Washington, D.C., instead of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh ot he more direct route via Albany and Buffalo).
    John M asks why people need to travel 1,100 km. in three hours. They don’t, but they could still travel at somewhat slower speeds , say 200 or 250 m.p.h., and still beat the inconvenience, unpredictable delays, and security harassment of air travel. Bring back 20th-century technology!

  • Bo

    “Its now 20 years since the TGV record was 515km/h (320mph)(1990) which is the equivalent one-off speed to the Chinese “record”. I think the Chinese know that its much easier to copy old technology like that than to innovate. Still it seems to impress people who don’t know about technology.”

    Funny that for someone who claims to “know technology”, you neglected to mention the TVG record was achieved on a specially built track with a modified rolling tock, both of which were for the express purpose of concept-proofing, not normal operational use. It was akin to stripping down my 2005 Toyota Avalon, replacing the steel body panels with carbon fiber ones, bolting a super-charger to the engine, lowering the suspension, and running it in a straight line on a racing track, all for the purpose of breaking the Avalon speed record; never mind that the car is not practical to drive on a day-to-day basis.

    Now, as for the Chinese Harmony Express, the article clearly states that it set a new (average) speed record for REGULAR long distance passenger rail service. What exactly is your objection to this statement? Apparently your extensive knowledge in technology didn’t come from reading books, seeing that anyone who’s functionally literate would have easily understood the statement.

    Yes, the Chinese are good, no, incredibly good at copying existing technology, and IP be damned. I have first-hand experience with this phenomenon. Then again, for someone who “knows technology” such as yourself, you surely must know that copying is the most efficient way to close technology gaps. Quiz time: where do you think we got the technology for landing a man on the moon? Where do you think we got the technology for producing the first automobiles in the U.S.? Yeah, from Germany. Funny that there is never any shame in copying, so long we did it ourselves.

    I hold a PhD in electrical engineering and therefore don’t much “know technology”, so pardon me for being very impressed by the Chinese train. Just imagine how much more impressive it would be if we, the eternally innovative Americans, managed to design and implement such a system.

    Instead, we are heading the way of the British: bankrupt, crime-ridden, listless, impotent, incompetent, insignificant, dumbed down, all-talk-and-no-action, and plain jealous. Oh well, at least we don’t have rotten teeth or let heroin peddlers off on insanity defense. We can always point to our British poodles for being worse-off than we are, right?

    Then again, even the British have high-speed rail service, albeit not nearly as nice or extensive as its French and German counterparts. As a matter of fact, even the very “innovative” British had to “copy” the technology from both the Japanese and the French, because the British “know that it’s much easier to copy” than to innovate.

    Meanwhile, I can just see the smug/expression of pity on the Chinese faces; smug at our jealousy and pity at our inability to match their oh-so-sweet new trains.

  • LOL

    MRB just got owned by BO..Bwahhahahahahahahaha

  • Hah

    Ahhaha.. MRB, you got owned so hard I do believe you are now legal property of Bo.

  • Jeff

    Oh snap, MRB has been duly b!tch slapped by Bo.

  • SoCalDreamin

    Quite a rebuttal and lecture by Bo to MRB. Needless to say, MRB deserved it.

  • sanely mad


  • cinas

    Hi, Very informative new.

    Thanks for sharing. I wonder how bullet trains defy pace of gravity on its travellers.

    Looking forward to experience one when i visit next month.


  • John Horowitz

    The Japanese JR–Maglev (MLX01) reached 581 km/h (361 mph). Besides, the Chinese “invention” seems to be a Japanese train stripped of safety equipment, to make it lighter.

  • Premier Access Consulting

    Bullet trains are real fast and needs lots of funds to be arranged for company. We help corporates to get money for their projects

  • Larissa

    US is forever stuck with the slooow train to Boston. Just think, with a $50B stimulus grant, we could’ve had a bullet train. Instead, AIG gobbled it all up

  • JoshuaKlein

    @John Horowitz

    “The Japanese JR–Maglev (MLX01) reached 581 km/h (361 mph). Besides, the Chinese “invention” seems to be a Japanese train stripped of safety equipment, to make it lighter.”

    Now you are just being deliberately dumb. If you are Jewish, then you should be ashamed of yourself: you make us look bad. No offense, but if you don’t mind me asking: are you part Gentile?

    Please stop linking articles without reading them first.

  • Keroy King

    Appreciate your efforts to provide such a great read and info. Just added your post on delicious and facebook for future comeback.


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