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China Railway eager to push on with high-speed train project under new govt

High-speed trains get ready to depart Beijing for Shanghai, a 1,318-kilometre trip that can take less than five hours, compared with more than 11 hours on conventional tracks.

High-speed trains get ready to depart Beijing for Shanghai, a 1,318-kilometre trip that can take less than five hours, compared with more than 11 hours on conventional tracks.

China Railway Corporation's coordination task force for the China-Thailand Railway Project hopes that the new Thai government will continue the existing plan to modernise this country's railway sector, including the high-speed-rail project.

"A modern railway system is a necessity for Thailand's logistics system," said Yang Yong, deputy task force leader.

China Railway is the operator of China's national railway system.

Yang said that in his personal view, both the caretaker Yingluck Shinawatra government and the opposition recognise that the country should modernise the sector but differ only on how to fund the project appropriately.

The dissolution of Parliament has raised uncertainties over the government's Bt2-trillion transport-infrastructure scheme, part of which is a plan to establish four high-speed railway routes connecting Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Nong Khai, Rayong and Hua Hin.

The Constitutional Court has accepted a petition to review the bill authorising the government to seek loans to implement the Bt2-trillion programme. Some parties have also questioned the financial sustainability of the scheme.

Task-force leader Huang Difu said China was keen to take part in the construction and operation of all four high-speed rail lines. Asked whether he was concerned that the project's implementation would be delayed or that the new government would revise the plan, he said he believed the Thai government would be able to solve any such problems.

Recently caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said that although Parliament had passed the borrowing bill, the fate of the Bt2-trillion project would be up to the new government. If the court rules that the bill was constitutional and the new government does not seek royal endorsement, the bill will die automatically.

Thailand and China started talks on cooperating on a high-speed-rail project during the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva in 2010, the same year the task force was founded to discuss this cooperation between the two countries.

China and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding on railway cooperation in April last year in Beijing during an official visit by Prime Minister Yingluck.

China Railway chief engineer He Huawu said his country could build the high-speed railways on a cost-effective basis. China has vast expertise in building and operating such railways in different geographical environments and harsh climates. It also boasts the largest number of railway-construction and train-manufacturing engineers in the world and has its own advanced technologies.

Yang added that China Railway had about 2 million staff countrywide, more than half of whom were in the fields related to railway operation and maintenance systems.

29 routes

China started research and development on high-speed-rail technology and related civil engineering in the 1990s. Since 2003, it has opened about 29 high-speed train routes.

Between 2007 to 2012, the cumulative ridership of high-speed trains in China was more than 1.5 billion. Currently the length of high-speed rail networks in operation there is about 10,000 kilometres, while another 12,000km are under construction.

It is expected that by the end of 2020 the combined networks of both inter-city and high-speed railways in China will cover more than 50,000km, serving the capital cities of every province and cities with populations over 500,000.

Among its outstanding high-speed railways is the Beijing-Shanghai route with a total distance of 1,318km. It is the world's longest high-speed rail line constructed in a single phase. The line started commercial operation in June 2011.

Another one is the Harbin-Dalian High-Speed Railway, which operates in the north of the country in temperatures as low as minus-40 degrees. It started commercial service last December and covers 921km.

In contrast, the Hainan Eastern Ring High-Speed Railway, running from Haikou on the north end of the tropical island of Hainan to the tourist city of Sanya on the island's south coast, has a total distance of 308km.

Zhou Li, director-general of China Railway's science and technology department, said that initially China learned high-speed-rail technology from foreign countries before creating its own technologies. Both the Beijing-Shanghai and the Harbin-Dalian routes were designed and constructed using home-grown technology.

Zhou said the high-speed train service had gained rising popularity as an option for convenient and fast transport. For example, the Beijing-Guangzhou line, which covers more than 2,295km, can shorten travel time to eight hours compared with 20 hours on conventional tracks. The Beijing-Shanghai line, which covers 1,318km, can shorten the travel time to four hours and 48 minutes from more than 11 hours. The fastest trains on both lines travel at about 300km/h.


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