I was an eternal fan of high-speed trains. I lived in France for many years and truly enjoyed the TGV crisscrossing the country and I always longed for Austria to have a direct connection. Then I started to understand the economics behind and that changed my mind. Yes, it’s nice to have those zippers go anywhere quick and easy but they are only cost-effective in dense metropolitan regions where big cities are connected over small distances. That’s rather rare such as Japan or indeed in some coastal China regions. But HSR into Xinjiang smacks of burning mone to me. Maybe another sign that China needs those infrastructure project more for keeping their building industry happy rather than for the comfort of the travelers.

On a recent weekday morning, Liu Ai’jun boarded one of eight daily high-speed rail (HSR) services between Urumqi, capital of China’s north-western Xinjiang region, and Hami, an oasis town 614 kilometers to the east.

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