BEIJING–A high-speed train from Beijing is scheduled to glide into Shanghai’s Hongqiao railway station on Thursday after its inaugural run, an event meant to showcase China’s technological prowess but one that lately has become part of a national debate about the pitfalls of megainvestment projects.
Admirers of the $300 billion high-speed rail network—likened by some to the U.S. Apollo moon project—argue that it will spread economic development farther west. By slashing travel time between Chinese cities it will spur trade and ease the flow of people and ideas, its proponents say. Construction, commodities and tourism industries are all tipped as big winners.
Detractors focus on corruption and safety problems that have lately tarnished the project’s image. Pricey tickets, they say, underscore China’s already huge rich-poor gap—and doom the trains to run half-empty, straining the national budget for years to come. These worries, as well as the environmental impact of tearing up countryside for new rail tracks, have already forced the Railways Ministry to reduce the speed of the trains and halt work on some lines.
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