Friday, October 29, 2010

The next big investment theme – high speed rail

To the average British rail commuter, the notion of sleek, efficient, high speed trains seems laughable. Just finding a train that can get you from point A to point B at somewhere near the promised time is an achievement. Doing it without bankrupting yourself is another thing altogether.

High-speed rail links are a dream that's been promised to the British commuter by various governments for years. Yet it never seems to come true.

But the outlook for commuters elsewhere in the world is far more promising. While you were slogging your way in and out of work yesterday, China was unveiling the fastest train line in the world.

And this isn't some bold but ultimately doomed 'prestige' project like Concorde. It's merely the latest addition to an already extensive network of high-speed rail links.

Indeed, I reckon high speed rail could be one of the most important investment themes of the next few years. Here's why.

The world's fastest train runs between Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the city outskirts. As it glides along the track, LED screens in the carriages show the speed tick up to as much as 431km an hour (that's 268 miles per hour). A return journey costs £7.50. That's less than the price of a peak-time London Underground ticket.

By contrast, one of Britain's high-speed trains, the Virgin Pendolino, travels from Birmingham to London at about 200km an hour (or 125 miles an hour).

When it comes to high speed rail, China is thinking big. By 2020, all major cities in China will be connected by trains that run at 350km an hour. Beijing is investing $300 billion upfront. The World Bank described the project as "the biggest single planned program of passenger-rail investment there has ever been in one country".

The rest of the world is now playing catch up. Billions of dollars are being poured into high speed rail – and just a handful of companies are equipped to scoop it up.

Click for article source.

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