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Story unveiled of the 'high-speed railway kingdom'

2015-01-27 08:45 Xinhua Web Editor: Qin Dexing

Urumqi, the seat of China's remote Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is a perfect example of how highspeed railways (HSR) have driven development in China.

Since being linked to the HSR network, Urumqi has witnessed an explosion of industry, with 18 of the world's top 500 firms, including Coca-Cola and Volkswagen, establishing bases in the region.

"We never imagined that the remote northwestern regions could enjoy the same development opportunities as the central and eastern regions," said Wang Ning, a researcher at Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

In just a decade, China has established the world's largest HSR network, over half of the world's HSR tracks are in China.

The domestic network crosses 28 of the country's 31 provincial regions, and it is showing no signs of slowing.


The fast expansion of HSR embodies China's own ambitions to modernize.

The nation's first stretch of HSR, the Beijing-Shanghai route, was first proposed in the 1990s but the long-term HSR development plan was not released until 2004

"The acquisition of foreign technology, the training of talent and innovation all paved way for the rapid rise of HSR over the past decade," president of China Railway Siyuan Survey and Design Group Co. Ltd., said.

The achievements of the past 10 years have received the collective awe of the world and industry insiders, who consider China's HSR development the result of "national will."

China needed to prioritize railway construction, said transportation expert Gu Zhongyuan, as "the old, creaking railway system was a bottleneck for economic development."

CSR Corp. chief technical expert Ding Sansan said that an injection of capital from the government following the world's financial crisis in 2008 was crucial to the speedy development of the nation's HSR network.

Like everything new, HSR had teething issues. A fatal train collision in east China's Zhejiang Province in 2011 raised doubts over safety and the pace of construction slowed for a while.

However, HSR rebounded thanks to efforts to improve quality and its high profile advocates, such as Premier Li Keqiang, who is now the de facto salesperson for China's HSR.


Bullet trains have made the past experience of traveling on Chinese railways -- cramped carriages stuffed with luggage, pungent odors and long queues for the lavatory -- a distant memory.

"Thanks to highspeed railway, I can go back to my hometown in Guizhou Province many times a year to see my family," said Pan Jinkui, a migrant worker in Foshan City's Sanshui District, in the southern province of Guangdong.

The railway Pan uses was launched late last month and connects Guiyang with Guangzhou, the capitals of Guizhou and Guangdong provinces. At a speed of 300 km/h, travel between the two cities has been cut to four hours from more than 20 hours on the old line.

HSR has made the country seem smaller.

The Beijing-Guangzhou HSR, which extends for more than 2,000 km and is the longest of its kind in the world, cuts travel time between the two cities to eight hours, not much less than the three hours it takes to fly.

More than 58 percent of passenger trains launched last year were highspeed trains that took 800 million passengers to their destinations.

HSR has changed perceptions of time and space for ordinary citizens, and the economic landscape has benefited from higher efficiency.

"As a country that boasts one fifth of the world's population, China as a HSR society is an important subject, worthy of research," said Zhang Qizuo, an economy researcher based in Chegndu University in southwest China.


HSR routes across China have been designed to suit its varying climate and geographical conditions. The Harbin-Dalian HSR travels through areas where the temperature drops to as low as 40 degree Celsius below zero, the Lanzhou-Xinjiang HSR passes through the savage Gobi Desert and the Hainan Island HSR can withstand a battering from typhoons.

"China has mastered HSR technology, with achievements in design and construction; system integration; and operation management." said Chen Juemin, director of the International Cooperation Department of China Railway Corp.

The train that runs on the Beijing-Shanghai route has been in service for 190 million kilometers, and has a failure rate below one incident for every 2 million kilometers travelled, significantly lower than the international standard of 2.6.

A new model currently on trial run boasts a Chinese designed electric drive system and network control system, two core HSR technologies.

Analysts said that core HSR technologies have stemmed from ceaseless exploration and innovation.

"China's HSR development has pooled resources from all quarters, breaking down barriers of departments, industry, enterprises and universities. It sets a good example for companies to not only innovate but also be successful," said Kang Xiong, vice president of China Academy of railway sciences.

"The HSR success has greatly stimulated the imagination of the Chinese people. And imagination is one step away from creativity, something all industries need," said Gao Bo, director of HSR research center of China's Southwest Jiaotong University.

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