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… ]


Scaled-elextric: slot cars for transport

Tom James @ 11-08-2009

slot-carToday’s dose of technocratic mass-transport conceptual design is brought to you by German designer Christian Förg. His Speedway Transport System is inspired by slot cars of his youth:

Förg’s Speedway Transport System concept uses a network of linear electric motors to propel cars along the highway.

He sees us driving around in futuristic dual-mode electric cars with small motors for city driving. When we’re ready to leave town, a contact-free linear motor would propel the car over long distances with a drifting magnetic field. Förg says linear motors would work under our existing roadways, complementing – not replacing – existing automotive technology.

“This means that you can use the roads with normal cars and also at the same time for the Speedway system,”

If this ever gets taken up it’ll be interesting to see what alternative uses the street finds for this technology.

A slight non-sequitur: Will Hutton writes in the Guardian on the dire state of the UK rail network, and how in order to remain economically competitive, Britain must invest in the kind of high-speed rail they have in Europe.

[via Wired][image from Wired]