Asia Briefing: China on journey to becoming major player in rail technology
In just five years, China has built the world’s longest and most heavily used high-speed railway network
On a high: passengers before boarding a high-speed train on the new 2,298km (1,425-mile) line between Beijing and Guangzhou in China. The line is the latest milestone in the country’s super-fast rail network. photograph: str/afp/getty images
Asia Briefing confesses to being impressed with China’s high-speed rail project since enjoying the comfortable journey from Beijing to Shanghai on its inaugural run.
In just five years, China has built the world’s longest and most heavily used high-speed railway network, with almost 10,000km (6,200 miles) of track. This is expected to rise to 15,000km (9,320 miles) in the next two years.
The Beijing-Guangzhou line, at 2,298km (1,425 miles), is the world’s longest high-speed rail line, cutting a journey that used to take 22 hours to just over eight.
China is also stepping up efforts to sell high-speed rail overseas. In October, Chinese premier Li Keqiang was pushing Chinese rail technology in Thailand.
China has worked on high-speed rail networks in Turkey and Venezuela, and has been in discussions with California about a project there.
The Wenzhou bullet train crash in 2011 was a major setback, although it appears to have been as a result of bad management rather than technology failure.
However, the government tried to defuse some of the hubris surrounding the project, and took a more cautious approach. Confidence in the service is definitely back, and tickets can be hard to get at times.
“Switzerland is known for exporting fine watches, while the most sophisticated machinery is believed to be found in Germany, but when it comes to a pleasant trip on a safe, comfortable high- speed train, the world is turning its eyes to China,” ran a commentary on the Xinhua state news agency this month.
“As the Chinese high-speed railway network grows, it is high time that China exported its technology and expertise, probably starting with neighbouring countries, where its advantages are suited to developing nations and will speed up progress,” it said.