China claims it has high-tech, skills to build bullet trains for us
India’s first bullet train project may have gone to Japan but China is wooing the country to help build high-speed railway on other routes, claiming that it has the technology and expertise which could bring enormous economic and social benefits to the people. With questions being raised on the cost factor involving setting up of high-speed railway networks, China has cited its own example of the profits that it is reaping now.
“The reason of introducing or promoting our high-speed railway (HSR) to other countries...is that we are confident in our technologies. The second reason is that we share a lot of similarities with southeast Asian countries in terms of large population and we are all developing countries,” Vice General Engineer of the China Railway Corporation Zhao Guotang told visiting journalists from India and some ASEAN nations at the China Railways headquarters here. “We are also quite happy to share our experiences with these nations. The advantages brought by HSR to our economic and social development is quite remarkable and quite well known,” he said. Zhao, who holds the rank of a Deputy Minister, also asserted that the construction and operation of high-speed railway is economically sound. Significantly, questions have been raised in India about the financial viability of setting up the HSR. “For example Nanchang to Shanghai high-speed railway line started generating profits in the first year of its operation after opening to public. Beijing to Shanghai HSR, with a total distance of 1318 km, has been earning money in third year after being thrown open. Last year, it made a profit of over six billion RMB (USD 927 million) and this year, it is hoped it will exceed 10 billion RMB,” Zhao said.
“Beijing to Tianjin inter-city high-speed railway line has also realised profitability and Beijing to Guangzhou high-speed rail line realised balance. So, some people may say that profitability of high-speed railway is some kind of magic thing or marvellous thing, but I should say it is needed for country’s economic and social development. It is a good thing, we are happy to share our experiences with other countries,” he said. Earlier, India’s move to opt for Japanese bullet trains on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route had raised concerns in China which is competing with Japan to build high-speed rail networks in India.
In addition to conducting a feasibility study to build a high-speed rail track on the 2,200-km Chennai-Delhi route, an India-China consortium is also conducting a study for the 1,200-km New Delhi-Mumbai corridor. The proposed Chennai-Delhi corridor could be the second largest in the world after China’s 2,298 km-long Beijing- Guangzhou line which was launched three years ago. Speaking about the train ticket price of high-speed trains, Zhao said the situation in India is very much similar to what they have in China. “The train ticket price of existing rail line was also very cheap in China. The price is less than 10 Chinese cent per km and that for HSR, the price for second class is 48 cent per km and that for highway buses it is 87 cent to 1 Yuan per km. Ticket price of our high-speed railway is cheaper than even the highway buses and the flights as well,” he said.
Speaking of non-fare revenue, he said the land price around and adjacent to HSR stations has and will experience big increase. HSR is also bringing profit to local government and other departments, besides helping China Railways reap profit, he stressed.
Replying to a question, Zhao said, “China’s HSR technology is much more compatible than the technologies of other countries because the availability and usability of HSR line depends on its inclusiveness within the whole railway network of the country.”
“We have the strength of people or talent. During recent decade, the last ten years, the newly built high-speed line in Japan is 350 km, that of France is 496 km, so you can see what we have in China,” he said.
Further touching upon the cost factor, he said, “the first aspect is the construction technologies, especially because of utilisation of machineries and Information Technology, we can have remarkable improvement for increase of our construction efficiency. In this way, we can ensure reasonable construction period and shorter period than some other countries.”
“Normally, for one HSR, we can finish for 3-5 years, but for some other countries, it may take 7-8 years,” Zhao said. He also talked about the high-speed rail helping bring cities closer. “For example, the high-speed railway has brought to us the One-City effect, that means it makes the neighbouring cities integrated...It has helped to boost the economic development of the region and of the country. It has also played a role in our social development,” he said.
Replying to a question, he said, “during our construction of high-speed railway lines in China, we have encountered a lot of difficulties, they are never less than what we have encountered now in our process of going global. But now some currently, some media are exaggerating some difficulties we have faced.”
Later, visiting the traffic control centre, Deputy Head at the centre, Zhuang He, briefed the journalists about various operations. “On daily basis, we are running over 7000 passenger trains including 4000 EMU trains,” he said.
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