China has plans to build a 13,000 kilometer high speed rail line to connect China and the United States requiring a tunnel under the Bering Strait connecting Russia and Alaska.
In addition to the China to U.S. plan, Chinese media report there are others in the works including a Trans-Asian Railway Network connecting China with Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Another plan would follow the ancient “Silk Road” trading route through China to major European cities. There are also plans to build rail lines in Africa including a high speed line in oil rich Nigeria and yet another linking South Sudan with the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
Daybreak Asia’s Ira Mellman asked Louis Thompson, a former railway advisor to the World Bank, if such plans, especially the China to U.S. plan, could be accomplished. “Physically, of course it can be done,” said Louis Thompson who had extensive experience in China and throughout Africa, “but economically and financially, I think it would be very questionable.”
“In one sense,” said Thompson, “it represents justifiable Chinese pride in the accomplishments they have made with high speed railways that they have in China.” “At the same time,” he said, “trying to apply that same idea and that same approach to a railway from China all the way through the Bering Straits to the United States through Alaska and Canada would be an entirely different proposition.”
Thompson said successful and economically profitable means of transportation between China and the U.S. by way of air and ship already exist. A passenger system, he said, may not be viable. He said there are even reports that China’s own high speed rail system may not be economically viable.