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High-speed Rail

A Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central) Shinkansen bullet train arrives at Tokyo Station on January 19, 2016. Japanese rolling-stock manufacturers have been collaborating with the Japan Railways group to expand the business worldwide with its technology and standards used for the Shinkansen bullet train system. Texas Central Partners LLC plans to start construction of the Texas Central Railway High-Speed Rail Project between Houston and Dallas next year using the Shinkansen bullet train technology.

In 1964, Japan inaugurated the world’s first high-speed “bullet” train on the Osaka-Tokyo route, a distance of 247 miles. According to the International Union of Railways, there are more than 18,500 miles of high-speed rail (HSR) lines worldwide. That number will increase by 50 percent when current construction is completed; many more thousands of miles are planned and under consideration.

HSR is powered almost exclusively by electricity, not diesel. Compared to driving, flying, or riding conventional rail, it is the fastest way to travel between two points that are 100 to 700 miles apart and reduces carbon emissions up to 90 percent. Over time, its energy source is likely to get cleaner as renewables generate a greater share of electricity.

HSR is expensive and requires high ridership to break even. That is why only certain places in the world have sufficient population density to support HSR. China has by far the most HSR lines—more than 35 percent of the total—with Japan and Western Europe not far behind. Where adequate density exists, HSR can be an important component of a sustainable transportation system and bring vitality to city centers.


1964…Osaka-Tokyo route: Brasor, Philip, and Masako Tsubuku. “How the Shinkansen Bullet Train Made Tokyo into the Monster It is Today.” The Guardian. September 30, 2014.

miles of high-speed rails worldwide: UIC. High Speed Rail: Fast Track to Sustainable Mobility. Paris: International Union of Railways, 2015.

maglev train…between Shanghai and…airport: James, Randy. “A Brief History of High-Speed Rail.” TIME. April 20, 2009.

medium-distance (four-hour) [trips]: Chester, Mikhail, and Megan Smirti Ryerson. Environmental Assessment of Air and High-Speed Rail Corridors. Washington, D.C.: Transportation Research Board, 2013.

[share in] popular markets: Chester and Ryerson. Assessment.

Amtrak’s Acela service: Freemark, Yonah. “Why Can’t the United States Build a High-Speed Rail System?” CityLab. August 13, 2014.

California HSR system: Kelly, Brian P., and Mary D. Nichols. “Taking California’s Bullet Train to a Greener Future.” Los Angeles Times. January 29, 2014; Vartabedian, Ralph. “$68-billion California Bullet Train Project Likely to Overshoot Budget and Deadline Targets.” Los Angeles Times. October 24, 2015.

one of the major hurdles: cost: Ollivier, G., J. Sondhi, and N. Zhou. High-Speed Railways in China: A Look at Construction Costs. Beijing: The World Bank, 2014.

Northeast Corridor…high-speed rail system: Nixon, Ron. “$11 Billion Later, High-Speed Rail Is Inching Along.” New York Times. August 6, 2014.

traffic jams…public costs: Schrank, David, Bill Eisele, Tim Lomax, and Jim Bak. 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard. Texas A&M Transportation Institute, 2015.

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p. 139

Correction: China has by far the most high-speed rail lines—more than 50 percent of the total— followed by Western Europe and Japan.

Correction: Compared to driving or flying, it is the fastest way to travel between two points a few hundred miles apart and reduces carbon emissions up to 90 percent.

Correction: Cost estimates have doubled from $33 billion to $68 billion.

Correction: The tracks typically range from $15 million to $80 million per mile; and then there are bridges, tunnels, and viaducts.

Correction: $1.04 TRILLION NET COST

NOTE: This correction also applies on p. 223 and p. 225.

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