By Charles F. Moreira, Editor
A bullet train named Fuxing (rejuvenation), model CR400AF left Beijing South Railway Station for Shanghai at 11.05am on 26 June 2017, whilst at the same time, another Fuxing bullet train model CR400BF left Shanghai Hongqaio Railway Station for Beijing, with journey times of around three and a half hours. The Beijing – Shanghai railway line is China’s busiest, with over 50,000 passengers using it daily.
Video courtesy of Xinhua – New China TV
Whilst high-speed rail service was introduced in China over 10 years earlier on 18 April 2007, these Fuxing trains are different in that they are fully developed indigenously by the China Academy of Railway Sciences (CARS) and manufactured in China by CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co, a subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation. According to designers at CARS, these trains will travel at a steady 350 kilometres per hour (kmph) and can reach a top speed of 400 kmph.
According to China Daily, these Fuxing-class bullet trains wholly employ wholly indigenously-developed core technologies and are built under a unified Chinese standard. Each train sells for between 400 and 500 million Yuan (RM253.4 RM316.8 million). Meanwhile, CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles will hand over 25 new generation bullet trains worth up to $1.84 bil (RM7.9 bil) to its parent company in October this year.
“China has been speeding up efforts to develop its own core components and standards,” said Li Sha, an analyst at GF Securities Co Ltd. “The initiative will accelerate the pace of replacing foreign technologies with self-developed ones.” Li also expects that these latest high-speed models will boost business opportunities for domestic manufacturers.
For instance, earlier high-speed trains either imported; built under technology transfer agreements with foreign train-makers including Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier and Kawasaki Heavy Industries; or still had to rely on imported key components, such as the steel used to make the wheels which had to be imported but now the steel is provided by the Maanshan Iron & Steel Co Ltd in Anhui province and Taiyuan Heavy Industry Co Ltd in Shanxi province.
Whilst China is a relative newcomer to high-speed rail travel compared to Europe and Japan, however the last decade has seen China expand its high-speed rail network into the world’s longest, altogether covering 22,340 km. Since its introduction, the service has become immensely popular, with annual rider-ship having grown to 1.44 billion in 2016, making China’s HSR network the most heavily used in the world. Its operator, the state-owned China Railway Corporation (CR) altogether uses a fleet of 2,595 high-speed trains on its network, or about 60% of all high-speed trains worldwide.
Export potential, Eurasia-wide connectivity
Meanwhile, according to Russia Today of 27 June 2017, Russian Railways, Russian investment company Sinara Group, China Railway, and CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co had signed an agreement on the local production of high-speed trains in Russia and their servicing over their life-cycle. Under the agreement, a plant will be built in Russia to produce 100 trains capable of reaching speeds of over 300 kmph.
The trains will be designed for the new Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway linking Moscow and Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan in Russia. Its 770 kilometres long track will pass through seven regions of Russia, with 15 stops, including Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Cheboksary and Kazan. The new high-speed train will cut the journey time between Moscow to Kazan from its current 12 hours down to 3.5 hours. This project is expected to cost over US$15 bil overall and China is prepared to provide a loan worth US$6 bil, according to Russian Railways.
Moscow – Kazan high-speed rail line – courtesy Russia Today
Meanwhile, there also are plans for the Moscow-Kazan line to become part of a longer high-speed railway line between Moscow and Beijing worth US$100 bil (RM429.3 bil), and it may also be connected to Beijing’s New Silk Road project, which will link China to markets in Europe and the Middle East.
Such a transport infrastructure development initiatives in line with China’s One Belt, One Road strategy are expected to facilitate economic development and growth in the areas and regions (the economic belts) around these high-speed rail lines.