DESPITE being a relatively newcomer in the business of high speed rail (HSR) service, China has gained international recognition.
The middle kingdom can boast of having the largest railway network in the world, fastest high-speed railway development in the world, according to a publicity handbook of national railway operator China Railway Corporation (CR).
The world’s second largest economy has HSR network of 19,000km of track in service as at end-2015, which is more than the rest of the world’s HSR tracks combined.
It has also developed a complete technology system for high speed railway which is “safe and reliable”, CR adds in its handbook.
As a result, state-controlled rail companies such as the listed China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd (CRCC) and China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) have already undertaken projects overseas and are actively bidding for new jobs overseas.
Last September, Chinese firms were urged by British Chancellor George Osborne to bid for seven contracts worth £11.8bil (RM65bil) in total covering the first phase of Britain’s new high-speed rail (HS2) line set to run between London and Birmingham, as well as other places in northern England, to foster economic relations.
HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby said then Britain wanted to bring “the best technology into the UK”.
In addition, cost was a factor. China’s construction costs have been pegged by the World Bank at US$17mil (RM68mil) to US$21mil (RM84mil) per kilometre, compared to US$25mil (RM100mil) to US$39mil (RM156mil) in Europe.
Kirby noted that China has the experience of building HSR on a large scale as it has the world’s largest network, which has been built since 2003.
China’s daily HSR ridership has grown to 2.49 million from 237,000 in 2007, making the Chinese HSR network the most heavily used in the world. And cumulative ridership had reached 2.9 billion by October 2014.
Over the past decade, China has undergone a HSR building boom with generous funding from its government. But the pace of high-speed rail expansion slowed in 2011 after the removal of a corrupt minister following a fatal high-speed railway accident in Wenzhou.
Since the incident, it has given emphasis to safety and reliability in its research and development on rail development.
China’s early high-speed trains were imported or built under technology transfer pacts with foreign train-makers, which included Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. But then, Chinese engineers re-designed components and built China-made trains that can reach speeds of up to 380km per hour.