China / Sci-Tech

New bullet train with 'Chinese standards' planned

By Zhao Lei (China Daily) Updated: 2014-01-10 08:40

New bullet train with 'Chinese standards' planned

Travelers board a high-speed train in Guilin in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Guangxi became the country's first ethnic autonomous region to be integrated into the national high-speed railway network. Chen Fuping / for China Daily 

China will boost the development of key technologies in high-speed railways and design a new bullet train with "Chinese standards", according to the State-owned railway operator.

"In the high-speed railway field, we must accelerate the research of crucial technologies. We will strive to complete the design of the Chinese-standard bullet train and its major parts within this year," Sheng Guangzu, general manager of China Railway Corp, said on Thursday in Beijing.

Sheng, who made the remarks at the company's first work conference, pledged to show the public a new bullet train that uses the nation's own technological standards before the end of 2015.

Currently, most of the advanced parts used on bullet trains running on Chinese tracks such as traction, brakes and control software are dominated by foreign companies, including Alstom, Siemens and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, according to sources close to China Railway Corp.

The situation has left Chinese train manufacturers no choice but to assemble or directly import such parts. Meanwhile, the comparatively backward industrial capability has also led to problems in producing some cutting-edge components, they said.

Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University who specializes in China's railway system, said though Chinese factories can produce almost all bullet train parts, the key technologies are still bought from their foreign counterparts.

"A German company monopolizes the brake system, while other Western companies control the traction parts," Zhao said. "Actually, I think China Railway Corp should allocate more resources in building not-so-fast lines rather than investing a huge amount of money in high-speed lines."

In December, China Railway Corp announced that the total length of Chinese rail lines has exceeded 100,000 km, with more than 10,000 km being high-speed lines.

According to the national railway network plan, high-speed rails will reach 19,000 km by 2015.

"High-speed lines cost a lot and create colossal debts for the railway industry. The ticket price of a high-speed train often exceeds the level many blue-collar or migrant workers can afford. In addition, the new lines are not compatible with trains running at slower speeds," Zhao said. "They can save the money and use it to increase the speed of old lines or build more ordinary lines."

In contrast, another researcher from the university who wished to remain anonymous said he endorses the move to develop China's own bullet train technology.

"Once the new train is developed and manufactured, it has a big potential in intercity links and the overseas high-speed rail market," said the researcher, who is playing a leading role in China's high-speed railway innovation project.

"However, I don't think China Railway Corp should hype up the so-called Chinese standards because using a single set of standards in design will stifle innovation."

He added that Chinese manufacturers have made remarkable strides in developing key technologies used on bullet trains and ended the era of foreign companies' domination in this field.

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