China's focus on the development of high-speed railways in the past five years has lifted the country to a leading position in the sector globally, and has brought benefits that are not to be found elsewhere in the world, experts said on Sunday. [Special coverage]
By the end of 2012, China led the world in terms of high-speed railway mileage with some 9,400 kilometers in operation. By the end of 2016, that figure more than doubled to reach 23,000 kilometers, according to a report by news site yicai.com in July.
During the same period, China's total railway mileage also grew to the world's second longest, after the U.S., at 124,000 kilometers.
Li Hongchang, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, told the Global Times Sunday that China increased its proportion of global high-speed railway mileage from about 50 percent in 2012 to 60 percent in 2016.
"In terms of the number of passengers it can accommodate and the economic benefits it generates, the system is unparalleled around the world," Li said, noting that some experts have said the high-speed rail sector contributes as much as 1 percent of China's overall national GDP growth.
The high-speed railways are also a huge driver for China's urbanization process, Li said.
The nation has been investing about 700 billion yuan ($106.4 billion) in railway infrastructure each year since 2012, the yicai report said, adding that in 2016, the country invested 801.5 billion yuan, up 21.8 percent from the level in 2012.
The past few years have seen great progress in China's railway equipment manufacturing capability, including but not limited to high-speed trains.
In September, China officially began the world's fastest commercial train service with its "Fuxing" series - which has a top speed of 350 kilometers per hour - between Beijing and Shanghai. The speed is higher than Japan's 300 kilometers per hour and France's 320 kilometers per hour.
"Fuxing," which means "rejuvenation," is China's first entirely domestically developed high-speed train.
Jia Limin, a leading expert in high-speed trains and a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, listed several milestones demonstrating China's status as a high-speed railway leader that were made possible in the past five years.
"These include the high-speed trial train with a speed of 500 kilometers per hour, high-speed comprehensive inspection train with a speed of 400 kilometers per hour, and high-speed trains for extremely cold areas and desert areas and those using permanent magnet motors, all with a speed of 350 kilometers per hour," Jia told the Global Times on Sunday.
Jia briefed top leaders on the technological strengths of Chinese high-speed trains in June 2016, according to media reports.
"High-speed trains with hybrid power sources - diesel and electricity - with a speed of 200 kilometers per hour and meter-gauge high-speed trains with a speed of 160 kilometers per hour also belong in that category," Jia said, adding that smart technology in high-speed train platforms and technology that allows designers to customize product offerings for clients with varying needs are equally important.
Li said the same engineering ingenuity can be seen in the planning, design and construction of high-speed railways, though these areas are often overlooked.
These achievements are consistent with the rapid growth of China's national strength during the same period.
Now known as one of China's calling cards, railway technology has become a key pillar of China's high-tech exports, experts said.
High-speed railway technology has been exported to Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia, in addition to conventional railway technology exports to Africa, including railway links in Angola, Algeria, Kenya and Sudan, and also between Djibouti and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
As of the end of 2016, China has 23,000 kilometers of high-speed railways, and China Railway Corporation (CRC), the State-owned train operator, transports over 5 million passengers every day on its high-speed railways.
Lu Dongfu, general manager of CRC, has reportedly urged the company to improve its service level, and push forward the global influence of Chinese railway technology, according to a statement posted on CRC's website on Thursday.