Happy Lunar New Year! The Year of the Snake.

Given our molasses like movement and antideluvian thinking about high speed rail in this country, perhaps some of the US government and industry folks responsible ought to take a trip to China. That country on Saturday showed off the final link of the world's longest high-speed rail route set to begin hauling passengers from Beijing to Guangzhou (Canton) this week, cutting travel time to a third of what it currently takes.

The much anticipated opening of high-speed passenger service from Beijing to Guangzhou, a distance of 1430 miles is scheduled to begin next Wednesday.

Traveling at an average speed of 195 miles per hour, the new line will slash the time it takes to travel by rail from the capital to the southern commercial hub from the current 22 hours to just eight.

The trains are designed for a service speed of about 195 miles an hour. 

Interior design is open coach type, no compartments. In coach the reclining seats are laid out in rows of three and two separated by an aisle, are upholstered in cloth and can be turned around so rows faced each other.

This line is now the longest high speed rail line in the world. 

The line will have 35 stops. Besides Zhengzhou, they will include other major cities such as Wuhan and Changsha. Sections linking Zhengzhou and Wuhan and Wuhan and Guangzhou are already in service.

China's high-speed rail network was only established in 2007. Since China had no experience with high speed railroads at that time, equipment was borrowed and bought for testing and evaluation. During the intervening years the network has quickly become the world's largest, with a total of 5194 miles of track at the end of 2010.

An Early High Speed Train Experiment in China. A Modified Swedish X2000 EMU.

That is expected to almost double to close to 10000 miles by 2020.

There have been difficulties on the way of achiving all this. Graft and corruption were a problem and then there was the very deadly bullet train collision in July 2011, which killed 40 people and sparked a public outcry.

The accident -- China's worst rail disaster since 2008 -- triggered a flood of criticism of the government and accusations that authorities had compromised safety in its rush to expand.

Authorities say that they have taken steps ahead of the new line's opening to improve maintenance and inspection of infrastructure, including track, rolling stock and emergency response measures.

The train will be in service for China's Lunar New Year holiday period, which falls in mid-February, when hundreds of millions of people will travel across the country in the world's largest annual migration.

The train sets are reportedly going to be CRH3 EMUs. These were developed by the China South Locomotive Works in cooperation with Siemens Transportation of Germany. Top design speed is 236 miles an hour. They come in 8 and 16 car versions. Rumors have it that there is some bad blood between Siemens and the Chinese regarding some "stolen" technology and patent infringements. 

Chinese CRH3 EMU High Speed Trains "based" on a Siemens Design (Wikimedia Photos)

Deutsche Bahn AG Siemens ICE 3 Train Set (Photo by Ralf Meier)

Perhaps I ought to get a Chinese Rail Pass before I get too old!