A high-speed train manufactured by China Railway Rolling Stock Corp arrives at a maintenance warehouse in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, in July, 2016. (Photo/Xinhua)
Chinese rail vehicle manufacturer CRRC Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive will upgrade its facilities in Malaysia this year as it looks to win the service contract for the upcoming Singapore-Malaysia high-speed rail project, its chairman said.
China Railway and China Railway Signal and Communication sent teams to Singapore in December in the hopes of beating international rivals from Japan, South Korea and Germany to win the project.
The 350-kilometer high-speed railway between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, first proposed in 2013, is considered a game-changer. By linking the two major Southeast Asian countries, the railway will shorten the travel time between the two capitals from four hours to 90 minutes.
Eyeing this lucrative opportunity, Zhou Qinghe, chairman of CRRC Zhuzhou, a subsidiary of railway vehicle and equipment maker China Railway Rolling Stock Corp, said the company's expansion into Southeast Asia was in line with the aims of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The trade and infrastructure network, proposed by China in 2013, envisions a Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, covering about 4.4 billion people in more than 60 countries and regions in Asia, Europe and Africa. "The Belt and Road Initiative will help China export more high-speed rail technologies to a number of lucrative markets during 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period," Zhou said.
"As most countries along the routes of the initiative－especially in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe－are planning to build high-speed rail lines or upgrade their existing railway systems, they are willing to acquire technical support from China to assist in the daily operations, maintenance, staff training and other services."
China Railway submitted a detailed plan, including high-speed train designs, terminus station construction blueprints, noise and vibration data, and tender documents for various construction periods, to transportation authorities in Singapore and Malaysia earlier this year.
Southeast Asia is no new market for the group, however, as it has already set up manufacturing and maintenance facilities in Malaysia.
CRRC Zhuzhou opened a $131 million manufacturing facility in Malaysia's Perak state in 2015, which is managed by CRRC (Malaysia) Railway Vehicles and will act as the company's gateway to other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The plant is capable of manufacturing various types of rail vehicles, from bullet trains to mass-transit trains and electric locomotives.
CRRC Zhuzhou has already supplied 18 metro-engineering maintenance trains to Singapore and they are now being used on the city state's urban rail network. "Because most Southeast Asian nations have just started to build new railway lines or bought new trains, they are keen to acquire technical support from China in the daily operations, maintenance, staff training and other services," Zhou said.
CRRC Zhuzhou's ASEAN plant is involved in production, assembly, testing, maintenance and refurbishment, with an annual production capacity of 100 electric trains and light-rail vehicles.
CRRC Kuala Lumpur Maintenance Sdn Bhd, another CRRC Zhuzhou subsidiary, was launched in 2011. It has 116 staff, of which 90 percent are local workers.