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Russia Is Building a Train That Will Zip From Moscow to Beijing in Just 48 Hours

The new high-speed train from Moscow to Beijing would run three times farther than the longest high-speed railway in the world.

Photo by Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

Russia plans to build a new high-speed railway, with trains that would speed from Moscow to Beijing in just 48 hours. At the moment, it takes about seven days to commute between the two cities and the route requires changes. According to Romanian website Glasul, the Kremlin has awarded the project to China Railway High-speed (CRH), a subsidiary of the state-controlled China Railway (CR), which is working in a joint venture with the local firm Uralvagonzavod. CR is famous in the train industry for operating the world’s only magnetic levitation train in an urban area, the Shangai monorail.

Previously, Russia had commissioned a French firm, Alstom, for the first work on the rail line between Moscow and Kazan. Alstom is one of the leading high-speed train manufacturers in the world: In 2007 it set up a new record for conventional-wheeled high-speed trains, speeding up at 574 kilometers per hour (357 miles per hour). It also operates the urban tram line in Nottingham. But since France did not deliver its order of Mistral ships in late November this year, it appears the Russian government took it personally and decided to switch that branch of the construction of the high-speed railway to CRH, which is now in charge of the whole line, from Moscow to Beijing.

Here is a map showing the different branches:

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The Moscow-to-Beijing direct route will measure about 7,000 kilometers (4,340 miles), effectively three times farther than the longest high-speed railway in the world, the Beijing-to-Guangzhou train, which is also operated by CRH (in red, above). 

Glasul reports that the new railway is a top priority for both the Chinese and Russian governments, having been discussed directly by the prime ministers of the two countries, Dmitri Medvedev and Li Keqiang, in recent bilateral meetings. Glasul writes that other supporters include the German automobile corporations Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes, which are all more than keen to speed up the shipping of their vehicles from China to Europe.

The new route will probably replace the mighty Trans-Siberian railway, connecting St. Petersburg to Vladivostok (the blue line in the map above). First, the old route doesn’t go through Kazan, a city that in recent years has become more and more central to the Russian economy. Second, and more importantly, it takes about 15 days to travel the Trans-Siberian route from start to finish, whichm compared with 48 hours for the new line, sounds like a heck of a long time.

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