China currently has one of the most expansive and impressive high-speed rail networks on Earth, and they aren’t showing signs of slowing. As their network reaches the far corners of their nation, Beijing could be setting its eyes on what lies beyond – far, far beyond.
According to reports, China wishes to build a high-speed, 13,000-kilometer (8,078-mile) train that travels from mainland China, up through Siberia in Eastern Russia, under the sea through the Bering Strait into Alaska, across the rocky peaks of Canada’s Yukon and British Columbia, and into the USA. Once constructed, they have could further extend their international bullet train into every corner of the US.
The price of such an outlandish proposal? A cool $200 billion. A price tag so high, even the likes of Jeff Bezos probably couldn’t reach it.
The plans emerged in 2014, when multiple news outlets covered a report by the Beijing Times that outlined plans for China to build the 8,000-mile super train. It would be called the “China-Russia-Canada-America" line (catchy, we know) and stretch across all four nations, connecting them together for a trade, tourism, and economic boom. Stretching across the Bering Strait, it would require an underwater tunnel four times larger than the Channel Tunnel, and far more high-tech to boot.
At the time, engineers from China claimed to be already in talks with Russia about beginning the line, which they were very confident was possible with current technology.
And despite just how far-fetched the proposal sounds, it could be perfectly feasible.
In 2018, China approved the world’s first underwater bullet train, which would extend nationally from Ningbo, a port city near Shanghai, to Zhoushan, an archipelago of islands off the East coast. Covering a 77-kilometer (47.8-mile) stretch of almost entirely newly-built railway, the new route will include a 16.2-kilometer underwater section. It will be a Maglev train, levitating above a magnetic track as it is propelled along at high speeds, and construction is well underway for the ambitious project.
Although this tunnel is significantly smaller than the Channel Tunnel, the addition of a bullet train passing through brings new challenges to the construction. While little is known about progress on the China-Russia-Canada-America line, some have postulated that the Ningbo-Zhoushan line could be a test run of sorts for a far larger project.
As for the US? They might be a little further behind. In 2020, the US Government approved a huge 2,570-kilometer (1,597-mile) railway line that connects the US and Canada, from Alaska to Alberta. Costing $22 billion, the line was a large leap for the US railway network, which has been lagging behind other nations until now. With China’s rapidly expanding bullet train network, the famous Japanese network, and other nations surging forward with their attempts, the US is now on the back foot when it comes to railway innovation.
Unfortunately, as impressive as the China-Russia-Canada-America line would be, it appears to have been put on hold for now. Critics have slammed the proposal for being economically redundant, stating that flight and cargo ships are a cheaper option for trade, and too complex. Whether they are right or not, tensions between the world superpowers mean such a collaboration – which would be the most expensive megaproject in world history – could be little more than a pipe dream.