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China unveils incredible first-of-its-kind transportation — and robots helped to build it

The 172-mile route debuted in late September.

The 172-mile route debuted in late September.

Photo Credit: iStock

China's transportation network is vast, but in the latest marker of its mastery of high-speed rail, they have introduced the first bullet train that travels over water.

The 172-mile route debuted in late September at speeds up to about 217 miles per hour, CNN and Reuters reported, citing the state-run China Railway Group. The line connects Fuzhou and Zhangzhou and includes a stop in Xiamen, all in the province of Fujian.

About 12 miles of the journey is over three coastal bays. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the project is that China Railway said it used intelligent robots to construct that portion of track, which was made with corrosion-resistant steel, per CNN.

The rail also has 84 bridges and 29 tunnels, according to CNN.

Fujian is located along the southeast coast of China and features mountainous terrain. It is about 100 miles from the main island of Taiwan at the narrowest point of the Taiwan Strait, according to Brittanica.com. However, as CNN notes, Fujian is closer to Kinmen, a set of islands considered the "westernmost region of Taiwan." The Atlantic has mentioned that these islands are "only a few miles from mainland China."

CNN noted that state media agency Xinhua said the Communist Party had released a circular calling for "facilitating better connectivity and integration between Fujian and Taiwan."

"Taiwan has dismissed previous Chinese plans to link the island to the rail network, which would require construction of the world's longest undersea tunnel beneath the Taiwan Strait," Reuters reported.

China has become renowned for its high-speed rail system, even though it only started building the lines 15 years ago. There are now about 25,000 miles of track. Almost 2,000 miles carry trains that regularly travel 217 mph, according to Reuters.

The ride is incredibly smooth, and TikTokers have documented this by balancing different objects as they reach jaw-dropping speeds.

Others have touted free food and alcohol and never-ending legroom among the appealing amenities.

The design of the tracks — including magnetic levitation, which eliminates friction and noise pollution — allows for such easy trips. The Shanghai maglev has clocked a record-breaking 281 miles per hour.

These trains are environmentally friendly but come with a caveat.

China is dependent on coal. Its investment in high-speed rail — and its comparatively small carbon footprint — is promising, but the construction increased the country's energy consumption, China Dialogue reported in 2019.

If the trains operate close to capacity and people use them instead of planes and cars, that could help countries meet the goal of halting warming global temperatures at 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels.

The International Energy Agency released a report in 2019 about the future of rail, noting it accounts for 8% of the world's passengers and 7% of global freight transport but just 2% of total transport energy demand.

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