China's high-speed rail revolution

When China's Premier Wen Jiabao boarded the first bullet train to open the service of the new high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai on 30 June 2011, he described the step as a 'new chapter' in China's railway history, with great significance for the improvement of the country's transportation system and social and economic development. While other countries argue about the pros and cons of high-speed rail, it is already reality in China.

More than 130,000 construction workers and engineers worked round the clock to complete yet another one of the country's high-speed lines. Only 38 months after breaking ground in April 2008, the first bullet train on the 1,318km-long high-speed line left Beijing on route to Shanghai.

Accelerating to 300km/hr about ten minutes after leaving the capital, the new line connects China's two major metropolitan hubs in only four hours and 48 minutes - compared to about ten hours on the old railway.

Originally designed for speeds up to 380km/hr, the Beijing-Shanghai train speed blows away not only France's TGV, which runs from Lorraine to Champagne and averages 272km/hr, but also China's first high-speed train on the Beijing-to-Tianjin route that averages 230km/hr.

After opening the world's fastest high-speed line in January this year, connecting Wuhan-Guanzhou with an average speed of 394km/hr, China seems to be on track to a high-speed rail revolution.


CSR, Guangzhou conclude Cooperative Agreement on New Rail Transit Equipment Development Project

On November 2, Chen Jianhua, mayor of Guangzhou and Zheng Changhong, chairman of CSR concluded the Cooperative Agreement on New Rail Transit Equipment Development Project. Among attendees were Zhang Jun, vice president of CSR; Zhang Ji, vice mayor of Guangzhou; Liu Ning, Party secretary of CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co., Ltd. CSR Zhuzhou; Ding Rongjun, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and executive director & general manager of CSR Zhuzhou Institute Co., Ltd. CSR ZELRI; Zhu Longju, general manager of CSR Guangzhou; Fu Chengjun, Zhang Hongquan and Luo Chongfu, deputy general manager of CSR Zhuzhou; Xu Hongchun, general manger of the Rail Transit Department of CSR; Ding Jianlong, president of Guangzhou Metro Corporation and heads of relevant sides in Guangzhou. Zhang Jun and Zhang Ji addressed the ceremony on behalf of the two sides.

In the address, Zhang said he believed that the new-type energy-storing tramcar transit research institute, jointly established by the Guangzhou Municipal Government and CSR, would create a new chapter for the construction of the urban rail transit system and pioneers the new direction of global tramcar development. CSR will give uttermost support for the development of the research institute, hoping relevant partners would treasure the cooperation opportunity, pool fine resources and accelerate R & D, to yield fruits as soon as possible and boost Guangzhou’s rail transit.

According to sources, the CPC Guangzhou Municipal Committee and the Guangzhou Municipal Government have hammered out a plan of “new Guangzhou” building in recent years. As an integral part of the plan, how to alleviate the traffic congestion in old downtowns including Haizhu and Liwan, thereby beatifying urban environment and effectively reducing the pollution of transportation to urban environment, has become a problem pressing for solution. The municipal committee and government have organized staff to investigate multiple urban transport systems at home and abroad to seek the optimal solutions.

CSR Zhuzhou joined hands with Siemens to enter the field of 100% low-floor tramcar in June 2012. The prototype of the world’s first energy-storing electric traction light rail train, fully and independently developed by CSR Zhuzhou, rolled off the assembly line in October 2012. Energy-storing electric traction light rail trains are applicable to special lines characterized by small & medium freight volume, frequent start-stop and small radius. These new-type transport systems meet the diversified development needs of urban transport, thus drawing attention from Guangzhou. Ding Jianlong, president of Guangzhou Metro Corporation, headed a delegation for a special investigation into the above-mentioned project of CSR Zhuzhou. After extensive comparison and argumentation, the municipal committee and government decided to join hands with CSR for the project of energy-storing tramcar transport systems for modern cities.

Under the Cooperative Agreement on New Rail Transit Equipment Development Project, Guangzhou Metro Corporation, CSR Zhuzhou and CSR ZELRI will be subjects of investment cooperation, give full play to respective advantages in expertise, talent team, practical experience and infrastructure in the field of rail transit, jointly invest in creating a technical platform for the independent R & D of energy-storing rail transit systems, and endeavor to build up a domestically leading and world-class “modern rail transit research institute” with independent intellectual property.

The municipal government will give full support for CSR’s development in Guangzhou, provide relevant preferential policies for CSR’s projects in Guangzhou in coordination with the provincial government and municipal government and relevant departments, and take Guangzhou’s energy-storing tramcar project as the startup project for the establishment of the research institute.

CSR will, on the basis of its industrial base investment in Guangzhou, perfect technological support, launch new products rapidly and provide quality services. CSR Zhuzhou will be in charge of researching on modern energy-storing tramcar system integration technology, as well as the technologies of maintaining and repairing energy-storing tramcar integration systems, energy-storing components, power supply systems and vehicle systems. As a supplier of major vehicle parts, CSR ZELRI will be in charge of the localization of integrated intelligent signal systems of modern energy-storing tramcars and electric traction systems based on high traffic density. Guangzhou Metro Corporation will be in charge of designing the lines of modern energy-storing tramcar transit systems and the technologies of operating and managing modern energy-storing tramcar transit systems.

As a major project in new Guangzhou building, Guangzhou will set up 10 ground stations in the test section Wanshengwei-Canton Tower of new-type tramcar in Haizhu roundabout, with a full length of some 7.7 km. According to Liu Youmei, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and chairman of the Expert Committee of CSR Zhuzhou, the vehicles manufactured for the line will achieve innovative breakthrough by combining the technology of energy-storing electric traction light rail train and the technology of 100% low-floor tramcar. The world’s original energy-storing tramcars for modern cities will be manufactured and industrialized on Guangzhou Base CSR Guangzhou of CSR Zhuzhou.






CSR Beijing Times’ first multifunctional crawler crane passes “15-day assessment” 

Good news has come recently from a construction site in Shanghai that the first multifunctional crawler crane--deep foundation SZQ55 grab crane, independently developed by Beijing CSR Times Locomotive and Rolling Stock Mechanics Co., Ltd. CSR Beijing Times under CSR Zhuzhou Institute Co., Ltd. CSR ZELRI, has been highly acclaimed by the customer for its stable performance, low failure rate and high working efficiency after 15 days’ site assessment, earning the company an order for two units. The second unit is scheduled to be dispatched in late November.

On October 18, with three months’ concerted and unremitting efforts of professionals, including the R & D, assembling and adjusting personnel on the project team, CSR Beijing Times’ first SZQ55 deep foundation grab crane rolled off the assembly line. 

Based on the mature R & D and manufacturing technologies of 55T crawler crane, SZQ55 combines all the functions of 55T and innovatively adds the grabbing function. SZQ55, which can get soil from trenches 40 or 50 m deep and directly load soil, is more efficient than traditional excavating equipment. Currently, deep foundation grab cranes are applied in deep foundation construction in urban construction, such as high-rise building and subway construction, and are still at an initial stage in the domestic market.

SZQ55 is the first multifunctional crawler crane tailored by CSR Beijing Times to market demand, which plays a technically leading role in China. The company is applying for intellectual property. SZQ55’s launch marks a solid step of the company towards the multifunction of crawler cranes, raising the curtain of the accurate positioning and segmentation of the crawler crane industry.




CSR Times wins order for 28 trolley bus systems from Hangzhou

Good news has come recently from Hangzhou that Hunan CSR Times Electric Locomotive Co., Ltd. CSR Times under CSR Zhuzhou Institute Co., Ltd. CSR ZELRI has won an order for 28 trolley bus systems, marking a breakthrough in the batch supply of the company’s trolley bus system in Hangzhou.

According to sources, trolley buses went into operation in Hangzhou in 1961. As trolley buses are inferior in motility due to the restriction of power grid distribution, and cannot move without power, Hangzhou’s trolley buses have decreased progressively in recent years from seven routes in their heyday to one route and 53 units at present, and have generally served over age.

The 28 trolley bus systems in the order are dual-source AC drive systems, and buses with such systems are driven by power from aerial power grid or lithium-ion battery packs. During bus operations, power grid recharge buses instantly, battery packs can sustain buses for some 30 km more when buses are disconnected from power grid, and buses have sufficient power for operation even under special circumstances such as road construction, thus boosting their motility. 

Owing to their superior dynamism, stability and reliability, up to 580 trolley bus AC drive systems of the company have been used widely in cities like Beijing and Guangzhou.



Mainland property developers feel heat from rail builders 

There are two new kids on the property block on the mainland, namely the nation's big railway builders, China Railway Group and China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), which are fast becoming major property developers that are likely to overtake leading mainland and Hong Kong players in the near future.

On a recent trip to Xian, I saw several blocks of flats built and owned by China Railway Group, evidence of a rapidly growing real estate business that generated revenue for the group of 17.14 billion yuan (HK$21.3 billion) in 2011, an increase of 43.4 per cent from the previous year's property contribution.

CRCC's property revenue for 2011 rose by an even more spectacular rate of 160.7 per cent to 13.54 billion yuan.

At the end of last year, CRCC had property projects under way in 30 cities, including Beijing, with land area for construction of 7.24 million square metres and a planned gross floor area of 3.15 million square metres, according to the Hong Kong and Shanghai-listed firm's annual report.

Yet property is a tiny fraction of these two state-controlled companies, which together build most of the country's railways. In 2011, property constituted only 3.9 per cent of China Railway's turnover of 442.22 billion yuan, and 3 per cent of CRCC's turnover of 457.37 billion yuan.

Their property sales still lag behind those of the biggest developers in the mainland and Hong Kong. The turnover of the largest Hong Kong-listed property firm, Sun Hung Kai Properties, was HK$68.4 billion in 2011, while that of the mainland's top developer, Vanke, was 64 billion yuan.

Nonetheless, the property turnover of China Railway and CRCC, at 17.14 billion yuan and 13.54 billion yuan respectively, already surpassed that of many leading Hong Kong-listed property firms. For example, the revenue of Swire Properties was HK$9.58 billion, while that of Shui On Land was 8.48 billion yuan. Hang Lung Properties achieved HK$5.16 billion in revenue, and Henderson Land Development's was HK$9.48 billion.

Moreover, with these two railway companies commanding annual revenues of more than 400 billion yuan each, their vast financial resources dwarf Hong Kong-listed property firms, giving them a powerful advantage. From 2012 to 2014, CRCC would spend 69.6 billion yuan on property projects, said a company bond prospectus.

Dollar figures aside, the two railway companies possess a competitive edge that sets a different paradigm from traditional property business models, namely the combination of transport infrastructure with real estate.

Many Hong Kong and mainland property developers try to locate their projects near metro rail stations because readily accessible transport links make their properties more attractive to prospective buyers. However, few (with the notable exception of the MTR Corporation) own the transport infrastructure.

In contrast, the mainland's big railway builders are able to build and own both the transport infrastructure and associated property developments.

China Railway has a subsidiary, China Railway & Airport Construction Group, which builds airports. Thus, China Railway is able to build integrated transport hubs that combine airports with high-speed-train stations and metro rail stations.

By building integrated transport hubs that also include residential property, hotels, restaurants and shops, China Railway and CRCC are able to create lucrative multi-use complexes guaranteed to attract high volumes of human traffic.

One example of an integrated transport hub is the 26 square kilometre Hongqiao Comprehensive Transportation Hub in Shanghai, which includes an airport, high-speed-railway lines and metro railway. The hub is located on 3.7 square kilometres of land available for development, one square kilometre of which was sold to property firms including Shenzhen-listed Vanke and Shui On Land.

Through land sales, the hub has recovered its 57.3 billion yuan investment, according to Liu Wujun, chief technical officer of Shanghai Airport Group. The Hong Kong Airport Authority and Shanghai Airport Group are the major developers of the hub.

The mainland's 12th five-year plan for 2011-15 calls for the construction of more integrated transport hubs throughout the nation.

China Railway and CRCC are building these hubs linked by high-speed railway throughout the country. This gives them a competitive advantage over mainstream developers.

Imagine the convenience of living in a flat near the high-speed-train station in Tianjin and taking a 45-minute high-speed-train journey to work in Beijing.

This model of "property plus transport" is similar to the MTR Corp's model in Hong Kong of earning revenue from property projects near MTR stations. Such a model offers a viable way to resolve the challenge of funding the mainland's incredibly expensive high-speed-railway network.

Beijing is committed to spending about 600 billion yuan annually over the next few years to build high-speed-rail links, but the Ministry of Railways is more than 2 trillion yuan in debt with a gearing ratio above 60 per cent. Having property projects around high-speed-train and metro railway stations is a feasible method to earn substantial revenue to finance their construction.

So, in just a few years, Hong Kong and mainland developers may find themselves overtaken by the new kids on the property block.



China keen on Thailand's high-speed railway project

"China is more interested in the project than other countries because this railway will link us to China," said Damrong Kraikuan, director-general of the Thai Foreign Ministry’s East Asia department.

Wen reiterated Beijing’s interest in plans to build a high-speed railway from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, 600 kilometres to the north, and Nong Khai, 450 kilometres to the north-east.

"The Chinese have already sent us their proposals on participating in the projects," Damrong said.

Thailand has yet to set bidding conditions on the multi-billion dollar plan that is a core mega-project of the current administration.

The Bangkok-Nong Khai railway will link to Laos, which has announced plans to start construction in January on a 7-billion-dollar railway from Vientiane to the Chinese border, to be completed in 2018, according to state media reports.

Laos plans to finance it with a Chinese loan. The 420-kilometre project will use a standard-gauge track of 1.435 metres and require the construction of 76 tunnels and 154 bridges.

China’s outgoing premier visited Bangkok after attending the East Asia Summit in neighbouring Cambodia.

"Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Xintao have done much over the past 10 years to transform China into an economic superpower,"Yingluck said. "I hope the new leadership will take the economy forward." 




China eyes 600bln yuan rail backbone spend in 2013: executive 

Li Changjin, chairman of China Railway Group Ltd, also said that it was difficult for China to complete this year's plan for railway infrastructure investment.

Li made the remarks on Friday on the sidelines of China's Communist Party congress which is meeting to choose new leaders.

To support the slackening domestic economy, China has raised its planned total railway investment by 20 billion yuan to 630 billion yuan for 2012, the country's Ministry of Railways said in October.

Beijing has also approved 25 rail projects that could be worth more than 700 billion yuan as part of measures to support the broader economy, currently grappling with its slackest period of growth since early 2009.

The government said on Wednesday it would increase state spending and offer tax breaks to quicken the development of the country's urban public transport system.

Laos hosts Asean-China rail link meeting

Asean transport officials are seeking common ground on how to link their rail networks with that of China, the world’s second largest economy.

Minister of Public Works and Transport Mr Sommad Pholsena yesterday opened the 14th Special Working Group Meeting in Vientiane on the Singapore-Kunming rail link to discuss the proposed Asean-China connection.

At present, most Asean member countries have their own rail systems so the region as a whole must seek common ground on developing a rail network that will dovetail with the Chinese railway system. By outlining the specifics of a regional rail network, Asean nations will be better placed to source funding for the scheme.

Asean and China believe such a rail link will not only boost trade, investment, and tourism but also enable the people of the two regions to enjoy closer ties and understanding.

A senior Lao official who attended the meeting said Laos is expected to benefit because the country is planning to build a high speed railway that will serve as a section of the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link.

He said that even though Asean member countries have different sized railway tracks, he believes it won’t be a problem for each nation to connect up their individual tracks.

The Singapore-Kunming Rail Link project was initiated by Malaysia. A Special Working Group on the project was formed in 1996 to undertake a feasibility study of the link both from the technical and financial point of view.

At the Seventh Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held in Brunei in 2001, regional leaders reaffirmed their endorsement of the project, calling for it to be considered a priority and urging all the governments directly concerned to include the construction of missing links and the upgrade of existing railroads in their national infrastructure development pro grammes.

Mr Sommad told Lao media earlier this week that construction of the Laos-China high speed railway, which will be incorporated into the Singapore-Kunming rail link, would begin in the near future. The parties involved are finalising their discussions and negotiations so the project can go ahead.

The Lao government announced in 2010 that the US$7 billion railway, which would run from the Chinese border to Vientiane, was one of several large scale investment projects that were central to the National Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2011 to 2015. In the same year, Laos and China reached an agreement on the development of the railway and planned to set up a joint venture, in which China would hold a 70 percent investment share and the rest would belong to Laos.

The government intended that construction would begin in 2011 and be finished within five years. But the project was delayed because the sectors involved were unable to finalise the concession agreement.





 Shenzhen Metro shuts off 3G service for a day after trains inexplicably stop 

Passengers on two Shenzhen subway lines cried foul yesterday after authorities abruptly shut down 3G service to determine what has been causing trains to unexpectedly stop between stations.

Shenzhen Metro, which had been at a loss to explain the sudden train failures on the Huangzhong and Shekou lines, said it cut off the wireless signal for 24 hours in order to test a theory that interference from mobile wireless networks was to blame.

Almost every subway on the mainland uses the 2.4-gigahertz frequency for its wireless train operating system, the same frequency used by consumer electronic devices.

The outage infuriated passengers accustomed to fiddling with their wireless devices during lengthy commutes.

"Suddenly my iPhone returned to [the] Stone Age, with [the] capability only to make phone calls and send text messages," said Lai Mingjuan, who has an hour-long trip between her downtown office and home in the suburbs. "Without an internet connection I don't know what to do with my hands."

The 3G suspension added to public concern that Shenzhen Metro would seek to permanently end mobile data services on the trains. The Sina Weibo microblogging service was buzzing with passenger complaints and opposition to any long-term disruption.

The Shenzhen Metro company issued a brief statement on its own Weibo account at noon, saying that the suspension had been approved by the city government. It apologised for the inconvenience to passengers.

The transport company blames the emergence of portable Wi-fi routers, which allow consumers to create mobile wireless networks using a single 3G SIM card. It believes interference from the devices triggers the trains' emergency brakes.

"The problem for Shenzhen Metro is a new problem caused by new technology - it's not our fault," Shenzhen Metro spokesman Wang Yuzhu said.

Telecommunications authorities initially resisted the transport company's calls to shut down the 3G service, suggesting that the metro had attempted to save money by not buying a dedicated wireless band.

But some experts predict similar problems will occur in other cities as the portable routers become more popular.

"Portable routers appeared on the [Chinese] market last year," Wang said. "More than 80 per cent of them were sold and used in Shenzhen. It becomes a problem as more and more people use them."

A Beijing-based railway communications expert said there were many solutions but all were expensive.





China's first Metro train fit for icy weather

China's first Metro train designed for operation in extremely cold weather rolls out of the plant in Changchun, Jilin Province today. The six-car train has a top speed of 80kph and will be delivered to Harbin City in China's northernmost province of Heilongjiang where it will undergo test run in the city's new subway. 



Beijing to launch new subway lines 

Adjust font size: Beijing is set to launch three additional major subway lines-numbers 6, 7 and 14- over the next few years in order to ease its lingering traffic clogs.

The project is part of the city’s plan in developing its southern areas, including the old Chongwen and Xuanwu districts, plus the current Fengtai district- which was deemed a less developed area compared to the city’s southern part.

Among the three new metro-lines, line 6 is expected to be the first put into operation by the end of this year, with one of its most difficult projects being that of Dongsi station, which through its special location connects the old and new areas of the city.

The station currently still holds the record for laying the deepest underground, at a depth of 34 meters so far, but is soon to be surpassed by the future transfer station of Lines 7 and 14 in Jiulong Mountain, a new station connecting urban and suburban Beijing.

The station will feature a T-shaped design and it is set to become the deepest no-dig tunnel after completion of the new subway lines in 2014.







Subway restroom complaints flare after photo posted online 

The shortage of access to public toilets in Guangzhou subway stations sparked public outcry after a boy was pictured defecating in a subway car.

The photo of the child squatting in a subway carriage went viral after it was posted on the micro-blogging website Sina Weibo on Nov 10.

It immediately fueled complaints about insufficient access to public toilets - only 16 of Guangzhou's more than 100 metro stations have public toilets.

An official from Guangzhou Metro who did not want to be identified said the company has been urged to have the plans for new stations include toilets to help ease the shortage.

"Many deputies of the city people's congress, members of local committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and residents have suggested we install mobile toilets near metro stations to deal with the problem, and we are discussing such a plan," he added.

Meanwhile, the corporation is trying to guide passengers to use the public restrooms near metro stations, he said.

Han Zhipeng, a member of the CPPCC Guangzhou committee, wrote on his micro blog that the subway station should give commuters access to staff toilets upon request.

The operating company could learn from Shanghai Metro, he said, which initially installed temporary toilets for commuters.

Lan Tian, a media officer at Shanghai Metro's operation management center, said the company has gone a long way toward providing restrooms for commuters.

"We didn't realize commuters would need toilets when Shanghai built Lines 1 and 2," he said.

When the company began to receive complaints, it could only provide temporary toilets, "but waste disposal was a problem", he said.

The company later installed "green" toilets that disposed of waste using biotechnology. However, because of the large volume of passengers, the toilets broke down at times, and the company had to close the toilets.

The problem was solved in 2009 when Shanghai Metro introduced a system that uses vacuum pumps to transfer waste to the city's sewage network.

The shortage of public toilets in subway stations has long been a subject of complaint. In some cities where China's earliest subway lines were built, before 2000, subways provided no public restrooms.

In Beijing, which has the world's fourth-largest subway network, only nine stations in the east section of Line 1, the oldest line, lack toilets.

After that section went into operation in 2000, the stations without toilets became a source of complaints.

Beijing Subway, the State-owned company in charge of most subway lines' operation in the capital, installed temporary toilets in those nine stations in response.

In 2005, the company was sued for charging commuters to use the temporary toilets and then not providing invoices.

Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled that the company took over the right to operate the subway lines after the stations were built and in consequence was not responsible for providing restrooms, and that it could hardly be faulted for nevertheless paying to install temporary toilets.

Tianjin has the mainland's second-oldest line, built in 1984. All eight of its stations also lack toilets.

New subway networks in Xi'an, Shenyang and Shenzhen all have toilets in stations.






Hangzhou's first Metro line to open on Nov 24 

Hangzhou's first Metro line will open officially tomorrow with a total length of 48 kilometers, the operators announced yesterday.

Tickets will be sold at Metro stops as of 2:30pm.

Metro Line 1 is built in a "Y" shape with 31 stops. It takes less than 70 minutes to transport passengers from the southern to the northern part of Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.

The Metro trains make 100 round-trips a day, and the capacity is 287,000 passengers per day. Fares range from 2 yuan (32 US cents) to 8 yuan.

The trains will run from 6:30am to 8:30pm at first, with the interval between trains at about 9.5 minutes.

Plans are to extend the hours to 10pm in three or four months, then to 10:30pm.

Construction of the Metro line started in 2007, with a cost of about 22 billion yuan.

The line was expected to open last year, but "difficulties" delayed the opening, said Shao Jianming, chairman of board of Hangzhou Metro Group.

"Considering Hangzhou is a city with many lakes and rivers, there are many geological problems we need to solve," he said.

The Metro opened on a trial basis from Sunday to Wednesday, giving free rides to 220,000 people.

By 2020, Hangzhou is expected to have 10 Metro lines reaching urban and suburban areas.

Signage is found confusing for English speakers. The Metro's Chengzhan stop is very close to the city's main railway station, Hangzhou Chengzhan Railway Station.

The sign at the entrance to the Metro at that stop says "To Train." But to get to the city's railway station, passengers must leave the Metro station and walk two minutes.




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