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Riding the World's Fastest Train

The world’s largest network of high-speed rails now has the world’s fastest train running on its tracks. In China in early December, a 16-car train set a new world record during a trial run by speeding faster than 302 miles per hour. During regular service, the train will travel just over 236 miles per hour.

The world’s fastest train is currently running from Shanghai to Hangzhou, a city about 120 miles to the southeast. The $445 million project cuts train travel time in half, from 90 to 45 minutes.

A first-class ticket on this route costs a little less than $20, double the cost of an ordinary Chinese train ticket. In comparison, a first-class seat on the express train from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia, a distance of 136 miles, will run you nearly $240, according to J.P. Morgan. This train’s average speed is only 70 miles per hour.

This is just the latest development in the fascinating story of China’s transit systems. Back in November we discussed how China’s high-speed rails were expanding into the interior of the country and connecting the country’s major cities (Read China’s High Speed Rails).

Rail expansion plays a big role in the 12th Five-Year Plan announced in November. Capital expenditure on rails is expected to total $455 billion over the next five years, according to J.P. Morgan. The goal is to lay 10,000 miles of track by 2015.

These amazing feats and ambitious goals are not imported from the developed world, but products of Chinese innovation. The world’s fastest train was built by a Chinese company (China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corporation) which has become the third-largest high-speed train producer behind Bombardier (Canada) and Alstom (France).

As China continues to develop its infrastructure and build higher-end manufacturing industries, the incubation of engineers and innovators should pay dividends for the country’s growth into a global powerhouse.

None of U.S. Global Investors family of funds held any of the securities mentioned in this article as of December 31, 2010.