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Tech: China’s ‘bullet train’ network is the largest in the world — and it’s about to get even bigger
PublishedBy: in Business Insider/TechApril 11, 2018

A rendering of the West Kowloon Station in Hong Kong.

By the end of 2018, China will complete its Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou Express Rail Link, a controversial high-speed rail line stretching over 88 miles.

Stretching 15,500 miles, China's "bullet train" network is already the largest in the world. By comparison, the second biggest high-speed rail network — in Spain — measures just 1,926 miles.

But by the end of 2018, China's will get even longer.

China Railway Corp, the country’s government-owned train operator, will soon finish the last phase of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link, a high-speed rail line spanning more than 80 miles.

Construction is near complete in Hong Kong, where China is building a 4 million-square-foot station for the new trains, as reported by The Hong Kong Free Press.

While the seven-year, $10.7 billion project is certainly impressive, it has faced much controversy surrounding its cost, its construction delays, and how it could affect Hong Kong's political autonomy.

Take a look below.

When complete, the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link will stretch 88.2 miles and connect Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.

Construction began in 2011, and the majority of the line is already in operation. The last phase in Hong Kong will measure about 16 miles long, according to China Daily.

The trains, named the Vibrant Express, can go up to 217 mph. They are equipped with power outlets and wi-fi.

Source: The Hong Free Press

Traveling from Hong Kong to Guangzhou will take under an hour. On China’s current intercity trains, the same trip lasts around two hours.

The line connects to China’s existing 15,500-milelong national high-speed rail network — the largest in the world.

Also known as Guangshen'gang XRL, the new railway will pass through seven stations when complete.

Only one, dubbed the West Kowloon Station, is still under construction and will open in 2018. Here’s a rendering of what it will look like:

The plan calls for 16 miles of underground track as well.

The photo below shows the construction of a tunnel in Hong Kong.

While impressive, the project has also faced a lot of controversy.

In early 2018, China Railway Corp announced that trips from Hong Kong to Guangzhou would cost $33, raising concerns about whether it would be affordable for low-income commuters.

Source: South China Morning Post

In addition, construction of the $10.7 billion railway has experienced several delays and is over-budget.

Source: South China Morning Post

CityLab also reports that pro-democracy activists are skeptical of the Chinese government’s intentions behind the project.

Source: CityLab

In a 2017 New York Times op-ed, Lian Yi-Zheng, a political commentator, argued that the railway will allow China to undermine Hong Kong’s political autonomy under the longstanding "one country, two systems" arrangement.

Source: The New York Times

Yi-Zheng and other critics take issue with the immigration checkpoint that will be built inside Hong Kong’s West Kowloon district, which may allow the Chinese government to pass security laws that limit political freedoms in the city.

The Guangshen'gang XRL will certainly transform how residents commute across the country.

By 2020, China plans to expand its high-speed rail network to around 18,600 miles, linking most of the nation’s big cities.

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