Is China beating Japan at their own high-speed rail game?

Chinese and American companies have reached a deal to construct a high speed railway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in about 80 minutes. 

Stringer/Reuters
A worker walks between two bullet trains at a high-speed railway maintenance station in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China, September 10, 2015. China has signed its first high-speed railway contract with the US.

A Chinese-made, high-speed rail line in the United States will soon become a reality.  

A group led by the China Railway Group and private US company XpressWest Enterprises agreed to jointly build a 230-mile, high-speed railway that will link Las Vegas and Los Angeles, reports Bloomberg.  

"This is the first high-speed railway project where China and the US will have systematic cooperation," Yang Zhongmin, an engineer with China Railway Group, said after a news conference in Beijing, according to Bloomberg. “It shows the advancement of China-made, high-speed railways."

According to XpressWest's website, the Southwest Rail Network will shuttle passengers from Victorville, California – near Los Angeles – to Las Vegas in about 80 minutes, with a planned average round-trip fare of $89.

This is not the first Chinese rail deal in the US. Last October, China clinched a $567 million contract to supply train cars for Boston’s subway system.

Of late, China has been trying to sell its high-speed rail technology overseas after constructing many domestically. Earlier this summer, China signed a contract with Russia to come up with the plans for a 479-mile, high-speed rail between the Russian cities of Moscow and Kazan. However, it hasn't been always smooth, as Reuters reports. China “has faced hurdles in Mexico and Indonesia, due to bureaucratic flip-flops in those countries.”

The Wall Street Journal notes that “the push to make China’s high-speed rail business international is part of a broader, long-term effort by Beijing to start exporting more sophisticated technology, rather than basic manufactured goods.”

The L.A.-Las Vegas line deal represents a milestone in China’s relatively newfound expertise in a technology that Japan helped to pioneer. JR Central, Japan’s largest bullet-train maker, expressed interest in the southwest rail network years ago. 

Early this year, Japan smashed a new world record when their experimental high-speed train clocked in at nearly 375 miles per hour.

Though Japan has made an effort to sell the technology, so far there has been little interest from overseas. Chinese companies competing with their Japanese rivals in the same markets often offer much lower prices, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this year on how China was able to advance in the industry so quickly.

China began its high-speed rail adventure by buying trains and technology from foreign firms such as Japan’s Kawasaki, Germany’s Siemens, the French company Alstom, and Bombardier in Canada. Chinese engineers then adapted and reverse-engineered that technology – a process known in China as “digestion and re-innovation” – to come up with locally produced systems.

Since 2003, in a lightning national blitz, China has laid 10,000 miles of high-speed track – more than half the world's total. The government plans another 5,000 miles by 2020.

The Las Vegas-Los Angeles project will bring new technology, manufacturing and construction jobs to the region, a Chinese official said at the press conference according to Bloomberg, but did not provide more specifics. 

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