From the NYT:
But often overlooked, amid all the controversy, are the very real economic benefits that the world’s most advanced fast rail system is bringing to China — and the competitive challenges it poses for the United States and Europe.
Work crews of as many as 100,000 people per line have built about half of the 10,000-mile network in just six years, in many cases ahead of schedule — including the Beijing-to-Shanghai line that was not originally expected to open until next year. The entire system is on course to be completed by 2020.
Because of this shift, plus the construction of additional freight lines, the tonnage hauled by China’s rail system increased in 2010 by an amount equaling the entire freight carried last year by the combined rail systems of Britain, France, Germany and Poland, according to the World Bank.
The bullet train bonanza, and the competitive challenge it poses for the West, is only likely to increase with the opening of the 820-mile Beijing-to-Shanghai line, which will create a business corridor between China’s two most dynamic cities. The railway ministry plans 90 bullet trains a day in each direction.
Even at the initial speeds, they will take less than five hours to cover a distance comparable to New York to Atlanta — which requires nearly 18 hours on Amtrak.