From King’s Cross to Beijing by rail

Paul Raven @ 16-03-2010

I love to travel by train, me. Though a habit born of necessity in my case (I never took my driving test), there’s so much to recommend it over cars or flying. Especially flying. [image by Let Ideas Compete]

Well, the far edges of my potential-destinations sphere is going to grow considerably in the next ten years or so. Did you know China are the world leaders in high speed train technology? Well, apparently they are, and they’re involved in serious talks with neighbouring nation-states aimed at linking the Chinese rail system to the European one and extending it down onto South East Asia, with China footing the infrastructure bills. Once it’s all done, you could ride from London to Beijing without once needing to take a car, boat or plane… and that’s a journey I’d love to do*.

Interestingly enough (though not surprisingly) there’s more to China’s plans than some sort of idealistic Victorian-era notion of rail travel as symbolic of progress and industrialisation. Indeed, it’s something far more blunt: in exchange for adding considerable value to its partners’ rail networks, China is cutting preferential deals with them on raw materials that it can’t source locally. Remarkably capitalistic thinking for a nominally Communist nation, eh? Talk about moving with the times… might as well make hay while the sun shines, especially if everyone else is waiting out the rain.

[ * – Seriously, if any publishers out there are willing to make a promise to buy the resulting work for a large four-figure sum plus research expenses, there’s a great book to be written once that network is complete, and I’m definitely the guy for the job. Market me as the new (and scruffier) Paul Theroux, perhaps – hell, I’ve got all the cynicism about human nature you’d need to fill his shoes. I might need to work on amping up my condescension toward other cultures, though… ]

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One Response to “From King’s Cross to Beijing by rail”

  1. H. Wilker says:

    Well, the “Reiseauskunft” of Deutsche Bahn (http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de) delivers a connection between St. Pancras and Beijing in about, oh, five seconds flat.

    The journey itself? Supposed to take about 198 hours. Or 194, if you like. The longer one actually only has three changes (Brussels, Cologne, Moscow) and leaves on Wednesday, March 17, 7.34pm; arrives on Friday, March 26, at 5.31am.

    (I’m sorry that there is no fixed link to the connection – DB’s web site doesn’t work that way. If required, choose English at top of page. Especially interesting for this connection: “Show intermediate stops.”)