China stat of the day: subways

The Times has a good story today about the rush to build new subway systems in China being outpaced by the rush by Chinese to buy automobiles I was struck by this:

The digging in Guangzhou proceeds around the clock, every day. Men like Wang Jiangka, a profusely perspiring engineer in charge of one of the steamy tunnels, endure sweltering temperatures at the tunneling site, where workers put in five 12-hour shifts a week. …

Inexpensive labor — less than $400 a month — and the economies of scale created by completing 20 miles of subway lines a year have driven costs down. Mr. Chan said that it cost about $100 million a mile to build a subway line in Guangzhou, including land acquisition costs for ventilation shafts and station entrances.

By contrast, New York City officials hope to build 1.7 miles of the long-delayed Second Avenue line in eight years at a cost of $3.9 billion, or $2.4 billion a mile. The city expects to use a single tunneling machine.

It looks like the real race in China is to get their infrastructure built before Baumol’s disease really sets in.

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