China 中国Off the rails? 出轨了？
High-speed trains might be forced to go a little more slowly 高铁或许会被迫放慢速度
CHINA’s high-speed rail network is probably the world’s most ambitious public-works project, a 21st-century equivalent of America’s Interstate highway system. Officials crow at each new speed milestone and each dramatic reduction in intercity-travel times. But after the disgrace and sacking of the railways minister and a series of other corruption investigations, the construction of the system itself may be shunted onto the slow track.
In 2008 China had only 649km of high-speed railway. It now has nearly 8,400km, four times as much as the next-largest network (Japan’s). The total will approach 19,000km by 2014, according to analysts at UBS, a Swiss bank (see map). That would be ten times as extensive as Japan’s. China is also adding copious amounts of traditional track and upgrading lines, mostly intended for freight. Estimates for the bill range from $530 billion to $750 billion in today’s money—comparable to America’s interstate system, which cost over $400 billion in 2006 dollars.
But question-marks have been raised over these plans after the sacking in February of Liu Zhijun, the minister responsible for building the high-speed network. He was accused of skimming off as much as 1 billion yuan ($152m) in bribes and of keeping as many as 18 mistresses. Zhang Shuguang, another top official in the railways ministry, was later dismissed for corruption. Separately, on March 23rd, state auditors reported that $28m had been embezzled from the 1,300km high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai, the highest-profile of China’s many rail projects.