Siemens onboard for high-speed trains in China

Japan and European countries like France have had them for decades. But now the race to build high-speed trains seems to have taken off in two of the leading world economies.

The Obama administration isn't the only one looking to high-speed rail lines.

German train producer Siemens has inked a $1 billion contract to build 100 new high-speed trains for China, the company announced Friday.

The company's Velaro train has a top speed of 218 mph. A typical train will have 16 cars and carry more than 1,000 passengers. With a total length of more than 1,300 feet, the new trains will be the world's longest single high-speed units in use, according to Siemens.

Siemens Velaro

Japan and European countries such as France have had high-speed train systems for decades. But now the race to build such trains seems to have taken off in two of the leading world economies, the China and the U.S.

In the U.S., the Obama administration wants to invest $1 billion dollars a year over the next five years in high-speed rail. In addition, the stimulus bill (PDF) contained $8 billion in capital assistance for high-speed rail corridors and intercity passenger rail service.

Among the projects angling for a slice of the stimulus money are California high-speed trains capable of 220 mph and expected to link San Francisco and Los Angeles in as little as two and a half hours. California voters authorized $9.95 billion for the project last year.

At the same time, China plans to create the world's largest high-speed rail network. The Chinese Ministry of Railways is planning to buy around 1,000 high-speed trains within the next few years. The current order from Siemens includes the first trains to serve the new high-speed line between Bejing and Shanghai.

The train will complete the 825-mile run between Bejing and Shanghai in a mere four hours. The Chinese Ministry of Railways already has 60 trains in the Velaro style in use--among other things for transportation between Tianjin-Beijing during the Olympic games last year.

With a consumption of only 0.33 liters per seat for every 100 kilometers traveled (712 mpg), the Velaro is the most environmentally friendly high-speed train on the market, Siemens claims.