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September 13, 2010

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Governator eyes city's high-speed rails

CALIFORNIA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Shanghai as part of a week-long trade mission to Asia, scouted out the city's new high-speed railway system yesterday.

Despite a US$19 million budget deadlock back home, the governor is determined to build a high-speed railway in California, and he talked about using Chinese technology and financing to make that happen.

Yesterday morning, Schwarzenegger took a round trip between Shanghai and Suzhou on the Shanghai-Nanjing Intercity High-Speed Railway, a 301-kilometer line that opened on July 1, running at an average 350 kilometers per hour.

"Today what I have seen is very, very impressive. We hope China is part of the bidding process, along with other countries around the world, so that we can build high speed rail as inexpensively as possible," Schwarzenegger said at a press conference at the World Expo.

The former movie star and body builder paid the Expo the sincerest form of flattery by saying he hopes California will hold an Expo of its own. He said America's most populous state will bid for the 2020 World Expo in Silicon Valley, despite his state government's red ink.

"Shanghai demonstrated that when you host the World Expo, the world comes to you, and I want the world to come to California," Schwarzenegger said.

"The significance of World Expo has gone down in the past, and the Chinese have lifted it up again."

Expressing admiration for the achievements, business opportunities, jobs, and infrastructure benefits from Expo Shanghai, the governor said Silicon Valley is "the most natural place to hold the Expo."

The technology hub south of San Francisco is home to Apple, Google, Cisco, Facebook, eBay and other leading digital companies.

Schwarzenegger and his delegation of nearly 100 business representatives toured the USA and China pavilions, as well as that of his native Austria.

The group spent their first tour day, Saturday, meeting Chinese entrepreneurs in Hangzhou, led by Jack Ma from Alibaba Group.

Schwarzenegger's state government is currently running without a budget. Yet the state is also among the most ambitious in terms of its passenger rail system, aiming toward a network of high-speed rail lines connecting cities throughout California.

The High-Speed Rail Authority, in charge of developing the system, estimates the cost of the construction to be more than US$40 billion.

Industry experts told the Associated Press that cash-rich China may be best placed to help California with funding and less risk-averse than countries still recovering from the financial crisis.

During his trip, Schwarzenegger will also check out high-speed rail in Japan and South Korea - two others among at least seven countries that have officially shown interest in helping develop California's system.

The state's plan for the system involves a new electrically powered high-speed rail line of 1,287 kilometers, expected to finish in two phases by 2020 and 2026.

The Hollywood star, best known in China for his role as the Terminator, was among the most passionately welcomed guests in the Expo Park. Visitors queuing outside the Austria Pavilion were keyed up as they suddenly spotted the VIP. Many more rushed from other pavilions or queues as they heard about it.


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