China’s Massive High Speed Rail Makes a Massive Mess

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China’s Massive High Speed Rail Makes a Massive Mess | WIRED

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Slide: 1 / of 14 . Caption: Humen, Guyangdong ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 2 / of 14 . Caption: Shuandun Town, Hefai City, Anhui ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 3 / of 14 . Caption: Shangqiu City, Henan ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 4 / of 14 . Caption: Maling Village, Guilin City, Guangxi ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 5 / of 14 . Caption: A Catholic church next to a railway station in progress in Shangqiu City, Henan ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 6 / of 14 . Caption: Henggang, Shenzhen CityDustin Shum

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Slide: 7 / of 14 . Caption: Lingchuan County, Guilin City, Guangxi ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 8 / of 14 . Caption: Liuan City, Anhui ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 9 / of 14 . Caption: Xiezhuan Village, Zhengzhou City, Henan ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 10 / of 14 . Caption: Nanhai District, Fushan City, Gunagdong ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 11 / of 14 . Caption: Shuandun Town, Hefai City, Anhui ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 12 / of 14 . Caption: Shuitian, Shenzhen CityDustin Shum

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Slide: 13 / of 14 . Caption: Daishudi Village, Guilin City, Guangxi ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 14 / of 14 . Caption: Gengzhao Village, Zhengzhou, Hebei ProvinceDustin Shum

Slide: 1 / of 14Caption:Humen, Guyangdong ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 2 / of 14Caption:Shuandun Town, Hefai City, Anhui ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 3 / of 14Caption:Shangqiu City, Henan ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 4 / of 14Caption:Maling Village, Guilin City, Guangxi ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 5 / of 14Caption:A Catholic church next to a railway station in progress in Shangqiu City, Henan ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 6 / of 14Caption:Henggang, Shenzhen CityDustin Shum

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Slide: 7 / of 14Caption:Lingchuan County, Guilin City, Guangxi ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 8 / of 14Caption:Liuan City, Anhui ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 9 / of 14Caption:Xiezhuan Village, Zhengzhou City, Henan ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 10 / of 14Caption:Nanhai District, Fushan City, Gunagdong ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 11 / of 14Caption:Shuandun Town, Hefai City, Anhui ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 12 / of 14Caption:Shuitian, Shenzhen CityDustin Shum

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Slide: 13 / of 14Caption:Daishudi Village, Guilin City, Guangxi ProvinceDustin Shum

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Slide: 14 / of 14Caption:Gengzhao Village, Zhengzhou, Hebei ProvinceDustin Shum

More than 961 million people ride China’s sprawling network of high-speed trains each year. That’s more than three times the population of the United States, zipping hither and yon at 186 mph. This has made the country much smaller—the 1,428-miles between Guangzhou and Beijing flash by in eight hours, a trip that once took more than 20.

China launched its high-speed rail program in 2007 and opened the first line in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics. More than 12,400 miles of rail criss-cross the country, and the government wants to double that by 2030. The government believes the bullet trains will connect the far corners of a vast country.

But even as it connects the country, it divides communities. Literally. Rail lines often cut through small towns and villages, something Dustin Shum noticed six years ago in Shuitian, a community in Hunan province. “People were playing mahjongg right next to this construction site,” says Shum. “The village was divided in two.”

He spent three years visiting nearly 30 villages around the country for Speed Demon, a project shot with 4×5 and 8×10 large format Chamonix cameras. He’d start in a city, then take day trips to two or three nearby villages. Finding them was challenging; Shum often learned about them through satellite images and online forums for hikers.

China’s high-speed rail is a model for connecting millions of people spread over great distances, and its rail industry is developing trains for many other countries. But Shun, who has spent his life in Hong Kong, laments its impact on small villages. “It’s a knife cutting through the community, but they accept the situation,” he says. “The whole thing is surreal.” He realizes high-speed rail is carrying China into the future. But he worries about those who live in its path.

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