Pinyin jumps aboard nation's trains 

A regulation by the Ministry of Railways to standardize the English translation of names of rail stations requires the direction in the railway stations names to be spelled in pinyin as opposed to English.

The signs at the railway stations and the names on the train tickets will also be changed.
Some experts applauded the changes, saying they implemented a nationwide standard while promoting Chinese characters and culture.

However, some expert said it made more sense for foreigners if the English translation is also added along with pinyin.

Some foreign students say that translating all stations in the city with pinyin would not necessarily help foreigners.

They thought many people in the country speak simple English and it's not a big problem to find the way.

The public also questions if the changes are necessary because it doesn't fit an international city to translate its railway stations with local characters that hardly make sense to foreign tourist.





Rail projects to spur economy

China's top economic planner announced on Wednesday the approval of 25 new urban rail transit and intercity rail line projects with a total investment of more than 800 billlion yuan ($127 billion) as the world's second-largest economy struggles with a slowdown.

The projects, most of which will take three to eight years, are expected to inject vitality into the country's slowing economy and improve the investment environment, but economists warned of low-efficiency investment.

The estimated investment for the new transit system will exceed 158 billion yuan in Shanghai and 124 billion yuan in Guangzhou, according to statements on the National Development and Reform Commission's website.

Local governments will be major investors, and other financing channels mainly include bank loans.

Residents of second-tier cities such as Xiamen in Fujian province, Taiyuan in Shanxi province, and Lanzhou in Gansu province expect to commute with new subways in the coming years, and transport systems in cities such as Shanghai could become more convenient.

Sun Lijian, a senior economist at Fudan University in Shanghai, said infrastructure construction costs are high, so local governments must carefully analyze the yield on their investment.

"If the upgraded infrastructure and environment cannot attract more investment and tax revenue from enterprises, the investment is likely to turn into bad debt," Sun said.

The NDRC has accelerated approval of projects since April, and local governments have launched many stimulus plans to bolster the economy, but banks have become more cautious due to increasing credit risks, economists said.

According to Chinese media reports, the investment in stimulus packages announced by some provincial and city governments adds up to more than 10 trillion yuan over the past few months.

China Securities Journal reported on Wednesday that the central government will further simplify the procedure to help companies raise more funds on the bond market and reduce reliance on banks.

The NDRC plans to give a "green pass" to low-income housing projects and projects under construction including transportation, telecommunications, railway construction and strategic emerging industries, the newspaper reported.

Issuing corporate bonds could help enterprises cope with liquidity shortfalls and attract "idle money", Sun said.

However, if the funds that are raised fail to make real profits, such as a portion of the stimulus package launched during the financial crisis, the investment may eventually lead to bad assets and inflation, he added.

The latest data show the poor economic performance of the Chinese economy, which slowed to 7.6 percent growth from April to June, the slowest pace in three years.

Demand for electricity declined in August with 444.49 billion kilowatt-hours of power generated, down from 453.6 billion kWh in July, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission said on Wednesday.

The HSBC Holdings PLC's China Services Purchasing Managers' Index released on Wednesday fell to 52.0 in August from 53.1 in July, showing slower growth in service sector activity.

But that sector is still stronger than the manufacturing sector. HSBC's China's manufacturing activity fell to 47.6 in August. Anything below 50 indicates overall activity is contracting.

The official PMI released by the National Bureau of Statistics fell to a nine-month low of 49.2 from 50.1 in July.











India hit by national strike over economic reforms

Schools, shops and government offices were shut in some Indian states on Thursday as protesters blocked road and rail traffic as part of a one-day nationwide strike against sweeping economic reforms announced by the government last week.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, joined by smaller parties from both the political left and right, called for the strike to protest against a 14 percent hike in heavily subsidized diesel prices, and a government decision that opens the door to foreign supermarket chains to invest in India.

The measures, part of a package of big-bang economic reforms aimed at boosting a sharply slowing economy, have triggered a political firestorm. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's biggest ally pulled out of his shaky coalition on Tuesday, raising the risk of an early election.

Bangalore, India's IT and outsourcing hub, was hard hit by the strike, but in Mumbai, the country's financial capital, banks and offices were open as usual. In New Delhi, shops were shut in BJP constituencies and there were fewer cars on the road, but the central business district was untouched.





Shanxi Energy to invest CNY 218.72 billion in five rail projects 

In a further sign that the once powerful Ministry of Railways is losing its monopolistic grip, Shanxi Energy & Transport Investment announced it would invest in rail projects where the ministry will take a smaller share than usual.

Shanxi Energy, wholly owned by the Shanxi provincial government, will invest in five rail projects with a total investment of CNY 218.72 billion. Shanxi Energy's share is CNY 33.2 billion, of which CNY 12.3 billion has been invested and the rest will be invested in the next three years. The firm plans to issue CNY 1.7 billion of five year bonds to repay debt and replenish working capital.

The bond prospectus said that the company, the ministry and local governments will jointly invest in these five projects.

It said that "The joint rail investment model breaks many years of our nation's railway being invested in by only one entity (the railways ministry), stimulated the central and local governments to be more proactive in rail investments and broadened financing channels, thus diversifying rail investment."






Rail equipment demand set to jump

Demand for rail equipment and services around the world is set to jump by almost a fifth in the next five years to €170bn a year, underlining the sector’s resilience to wider economic pressures as governments continue to invest in key infrastructure.

The strongest growth is expected to come from markets in Latin America, chiefly Brazil, and the Middle East, offsetting a sharp slowdown in demand from China, which has put the brakes on its high-speed rail programme following a succession of safety problems. 




China approves rail projects worth RMB714.375b in 17 cities  

National Development and Reform Commission approval of rail transit construction in 17 cities on September 5 including Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, Lanzhou, Shenyang, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Changzhou, Harbin, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chengdu, Xi’an, Changchun, Ningbo, Suzhou, Qingdao and Shenzhen.
With total investment of CNY 714.375 billion the rail transit construction projects will be bound to drive consumption of steel products. As main materials for rail transit construction, demands for grade III-above rebar, medium plate, HR coil/plate, light rail, stainless steel, CR coil/plate and galvanized steel will mount up substantially.
Besides, the engineering machinery industry, transport machines, structural components, railway carriage locomotive, communication apparatus and operating system will be also lifted by the rail transit construction and thus demands for corrosion-resistant medium plate and HR coil/plate will be provoked as well.
NDRC indicated this approval of rail transit construction projects embodies the stable economic growth and meanwhile, will guarantee relatively stable and continuous demands for steel products. 






Nigeria borrows $600m from China's Exim

Nigeria has signed a deal to borrow $600 million from China's Export-Import Bank, most of which will be used to build a railway servicing the capital Abuja and surrounding areas, the finance ministry said on Wednesday.

The Abuja railway, which is being built by the State-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corp, will cost $500 million and is due to be completed by 2015.

A further $100 million of debt will be used for Nigeria's Galaxy Backbone project, which is aimed at improving security and giving young people better access to technology.

One strand of the new railway will link Abuja city center with the international airport and the other plans to connect surrounding commuter regions with the capital. Roads around the capital are poorly maintained, congested and dangerous.

"The light rail in Abuja will improve transportation for all residents, especially the working class," Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said at the signing agreement with China Exim bank in Beijing.



High speed rail may need to be rebuilt 

Part of the newly built Harbin-Dalian high speed railroad connecting Northeast China's Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces is now facing reconstruction due to roadbed deformation, an expert said on Tuesday.

Wang Mengshu, chief engineer of the China Railway Tunnel Group and academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the Global Times that certain parts of the railroad were not initially designed properly.

"In regions where the temperature varies greatly around the year, frost heaving becomes a major problem in construction," said Wang. "Designers need to pay extra attention to the amount of water in the roadbed. Too little water reduces roadbed strength, while too much water could cause deformation."

Wang said a certain part of the Harbin-Dalian line, the first of its kind in Northeast China, was designed to avoid building tunnels for the purpose of reducing cost, causing the railroad to travel through ravines where rain water can easily accumulate and damage the roadbed.

An anonymous expert from the Ministry of Railways made similar comments and added that 70 percent of the ballastless track, a type of track specially required by high speed lines, was built on a viaduct to help drain water. Some 20 percent of the track built directly on the ground roadbed has seen different levels of deformation, reported Economy & Nation Weekly on Sunday.

The Harbin-Dalian high speed railroad is currently the northernmost high speed line in China with temperatures dropping to as low as -40 C in the area.






China to Invest 800b Yuan in Subway Projects

China has approved 25 new subway projects with an investment of 800 billion yuan (US$126.98 billion), including five projects in Shanghai worth more than 16.79 billion yuan.

Second-tier cities such as Xiamen in Fujian Province and Taiyuan in Shanxi Province are to build metro lines while Shanghai and Harbin in Heilongjiang Province will see extensions to their existing urban rail systems, the National Development and Reform Commission announced yesterday.

By 2015, Shanghai's Metro system will reach Disneyland in the Pudong New Area and the China Expo Exhibition Complex in Qingpu District.

Metro Line 11 will be extended from its Luoshan Road to Disneyland, a 9.15 kilometer stretch costing 4.37 billion yuan.

Metro Line 8 will go beyond its Shanghai Aerospace Museum stop to Huizhen Road with a 6.6 kilometer extension costing 2.24 billion yuan.

Metro Line 10 will be made 10 kilometers longer with a new route from New Jiangwan City to Gangchen Road at a cost of 5.94 billion yuan.

Metro Line 2 will extend 2 kilometers eastward, from Xujingdong to Panlong Road, with an investment of 1.35 billion yuan.

Metro Line 3 and Line 4, which currently share part of their route, will go their separate ways in a rerouting project which will involve 2.6 kilometers of track and cost 2.89 billion yuan.

Municipal and district governments will contribute 7.1 billion yuan to the projects, 42 percent of the total cost. The rest will be financed by banks.

By 2020, 40 cities in China will have subways that run for more than 7,000 kilometers, 4.3 times the current length, according to the China Association of Metros, an organization under the NDRC.

Zhang Yongjun, a researcher at China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said: "The construction of urban rail systems can bring massive investments and create a pull effect on the local economy."

China has also approved construction of airports, highways and other public works to revive economic growth that slumped to a three-year low of 7.6 percent in the second quarter.

The economic planning commission also gave the green light yesterday to the construction of 13 new highways that will measuring a total of 2,000 kilometers.

Local governments have also shown high interest in new infrastructure projects. The investment in local stimulus packages is said to amount to more than 10 trillion yuan over the past few months.






Dalian Metro Line 2 receives syndicated loan

The Dalian Railway Company signed a syndicated loan contract with three banks, totaling 6.8 billion yuan ($1.07 billion), to back the construction of the first phase of the Dalian Metro Line 2 on Aug 30, 2012.

The three banks are Dalian branches of the China Construction Bank, Bank of Communications, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The loan term is 17 years.

The total investment in Phase I of Dalian Metro Line 2 is 11.7 billion yuan, including self-owned capital of 4.9 billion yuan and syndicated loans of 6.8 billion yuan.

The first phase of Dalian Metro Line 2 will run 20.7 kilometers and create 17 subway stations east of Gangwan Square.

The project began construction in 2010 and is expected to open for traffic in July 2014. 








Supercapacitor light metro train unveiled

CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive has unveiled a prototype light metro trainset which uses supercapacitor energy storage to operate without an external power supply.

Developed in conjunction with Chinese Academy of Engineering, the trainset has underfloor power pick-ups which are used to charge the roof-mounted supercapacitor unit from a fixed supply while the train is stood at a station. Charging takes 30 sec and can power the train for 2 km. Energy regenerated during braking is recovered for reuse.

The two-car articulated trainset which was rolled out on August 10 is designed for a maximum speed of 80 km/h, with an intended operating speed of 70 km/h. It is 2 650 mm wide, has a capacity of 320 passengers and is suitable for a minimum curve radius of 80 m.

The supercapacitor has a greater power density than lithium-ion batteries, and wireless operation is seen as a cheaper and less visually intrusive alternative to conventional electrification.

Commercial production is envisaged by 2014, with the manufacturer believing the technology could be viable for use in more than 100 smaller and medium-sized Chinese cities, as well as for the export market.







China hikes rail spending target

The Ministry of Railways has raised its target for railway construction spending this year to 496 billion yuan ($78 billion) from 470 billion yuan in a move seen as part of the government's latest efforts to shore up the slowing economy.

"The investment on new railways will be at least 67 billion yuan a month from September till the end of this year," China Railway Group's President Bai Zhongren told a news conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

This is at least the third time this year that the ministry has raised its investment target since the start of July when Premier Wen Jiabao said promoting investment growth is key to stabilizing economic expansion that has fallen to the slowest pace in three years.

In its previous moves, the ministry has raised its spending target from 406 billion yuan to 470 billion yuan. The latest investment target (496 billion yuan) is 35 billion yuan more than last year’s spending of 461 billion yuan

Meanwhile, data from the ministry showed that total investment in railway fixed assets during the first seven months of 2012 was 30 percent less from a year ago, due to fewer new projects and lack of funding.

"The Ministry of Railways will hold a mobilization meeting soon, which is very rare and it demonstrates its determination on boosting the railway construction," said Bai.

Liao Qun, chief economist of China Banking Group at Citic Bank International, told China Daily that currently, one of the major measures used by the central government to stabilize the country’s economic growth is increasing investment in infrastructure projects.

"The scale of the spending on infrastructure this year won't be as large as it was in 2009, as the central government only needs to deliver 7.5 percent GDP growth for the country," said Liao.

China’s official PMI, one of the earliest indicators of China’s economy, fell more than expected to 49.2 in August from 50.1 in July, the lowest in nine months, giving rise to expectations of more policy easing by the government.

S&P Capital IQ analyst Hooi Tow Chew also said in a report that the central government is set to step up infrastructure projects' approvals to support economic growth.

He pointed out that China Railway Group will benefit from this move as railway construction contracts are expected to pick up following the increase in the railway spending budget.

China Railway Group, the country's leading heavy infrastructure company, posted a decline in its first half net profit as the country spent less on building new railway lines.

"I can tell you for sure that the second half of this year will be better than the first-half (for China Railway Group)," Bai said.

During the first half of 2012, the company’s new infrastructure construction contracts was 200.72 billion yuan, up 13.36 percent year-on-year; by the end of June, the company's backlog of infrastructure construction contracts was 937.34 billion yuan, 4.3 percent more than it had at the end of last year.


China-Europe railway now operational

The 11,179-kilometer Yuxinou (Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe) International Railway, honored as the ‘modern Silk Road’, was officially put into operation on Aug.31. It starts in Chongqing, crosses the Alataw Pass on the border of China into Kazakhstan, and then travels through Russia, Belarus and Poland before arriving in Duisburg, Germany.

Via the new railway, it only takes 16 days on average to transport goods from China to European backland, 20 days shorter than ocean shipping from China’s eastern areas. Thus, the railway is more suitable for transporting high-value goods with a limited shelf life. Moreover, from Chongqing to Europe, customs declaration and inspection will only be processed one time, adding much increased convenience for shippers.

To coincide with the opening of the Yuxinou (Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe) International Railway, an international Trans-Eurasia Rail Logistics Company was co-established by Chongqing, Russia, the Republic of Tajikistan and Germany, and other partners on Apr. 12 with an initial investment of US$6 million.

The main role of the company will be to organize regular rail container shipments between Chongqing in China and Duisburg in Germany. It will also provide freight forwarding, transportation price negotiation and transportation security services.




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