Rail network on track to be split, report says

The national rail network might be split into 7 or 8 local corporations, 21st Century Business Herald reported on Thursday.


The report, citing two anonymous sources, said the plan is expected to be introduced this year. Even if that target was not met, the sources were quoted as saying, it will be no later than next year.


China Railway Corp is made up of 18 agencies. According to the report, these will be restructured into regional corporations, Northeast, Beijing and Tianjin, East China, Central China, South China, Southwest China and Northwest China.


The current Xi'an agency might be turned into a new corporation, or merged into Northwest China corporation headquartered in Lanzhou, Gansu province.


A few key railways would be constructed into new corporations independent of the restructure, for example the high-speed rail linking Beijing and Hong Kong, the report said.


China Railway Corp is the result of the latest railway restructure in which the former Ministry of Railways conceded administration and policy making to the Ministry of Transportation and left the operational part as the China Railway Corporation.


Sources said the buildup of the regional railway corporations are the second phase of an overall plan, which will be followed by asset restructuring, including the separation of passenger transport and freight, and the separation of rail and operations.






Suspects in Taiwan train scare arrested in China

TAIPEI - Two men suspected of planting suitcases loaded with petrol on a high-speed train in Taiwan have been arrested in China, police said on Tuesday.


The Taiwanese pair were arrested in the southeastern Chinese city of Zuhai and will be extradited back to Taiwan soon, said an official at the Criminal Investigation Bureau who asked not to be named.


He declined to go into specifics about the arrest.


The incident happened on Friday when two unattended suitcases were found on board a train bound for the capital Taipei, prompting the evacuation of more than 600 passengers.


Two other suitcases, also containing petrol, were found in lawmaker Lu Chia-chen's office in New Taipei city. Police were treating the two incidents as connected.


After discovering the two suitcases on the train, rail operator Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. evacuated passengers at Taoyuan station near Taipei and police removed the bags for investigation.


Officers searched the train for evidence and the platform for Taipei-bound trains was temporarily closed, the company said.


It said it had not received any threats prior to the incident.







California's Governor: China Rail Safety Worry Can Be Overcome

SHANGHAI—California Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday that safety concerns could be overcome should the state partner with China to fulfill California's $68 billion high-speed rail plans.


Asked whether Californians might balk at riding a Chinese-built high-speed rail network given China's spotty track record for safety, the governor said: "Life is about overcoming problems, not pretending they don't exist."


Gov. Brown said no decision had been made yet about financing or who would build the network. "We have a scientific and business team and they are working through the issues," he said.


The worries stem mainly from a high-speed rail collision in 2011, when one bullet train rear-ended another in the eastern China city of Wenzhou, killing 40 people and injuring 172.


The incident sparked widespread public criticism of China's breakneck growth, spurring one newscaster from state-owned China Central Television to ask in a broadcast, "Can we ride a train that arrives safely?"


The governor, who was speaking at official opening of the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai, is leading a delegation of California-based businesspeople and government officials. The governor and his entourage on Thursday rode the high-speed train between Beijing and Shanghai.


The state hasn't had an official presence in China since 2003. In 2012, investment from mainland China in California totaled $1.5 billion, or 6.6% of the total Chinese investment in the U.S. during the year, according to consulting firm Rhodium Group. Only 1% of Chinese investment in California was in the transport and construction sector.


As part of the visit, members of the delegation visited Chinese companies, including sovereign-wealth fund China Investment Corp., to discuss financing, building and equipping for the project, officials said.


Members also met with representatives of railway-equipment producer Tangshan Railway Vehicle Co. A meeting with national railway operator China Railway Corp. is also planned, they said.


Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, declined to comment on the safety issues related to the operation of China's domestic rail network, but said: "When we build a system in the United States, I can assure everybody that we will build to the highest possible levels of safety and reliability—that's very important."


Mr. Richard estimated the total project at $68 billion at fully inflated costs—or $54 billion in current dollars. "We believe a third of that could come from the private sector," he said.


However, the delegation would not be returning to the U.S. with a check in hand to finance California's high-speed train network, he said. "This is not a trip where we come back saying we've inked some kind of agreement—it will be a broader process than that," Mr. Richard said.


"But we want to make it clear that we are moving forward in California, we have solved a lot of the challenges that we had and we expect to break ground this summer to build the first part of our system," he said, adding the initial section would run from an area north of Fresno to Bakersfield.


China is in the midst of breaking up and revamping its former Railway Ministry, which has been beset by safety issues, high debt and corruption. Prosecutors charged China's former railway chief Liu Zhijun Wednesday with bribery and abuse of power, according to state media.






CSR to enhance support for China’s rail transport

BEIJING, April 16 — The Central Research Institute of China CSR Corp. Ltd. was unveiled Tuesday.


CSR, China’s biggest train maker, developed the institute to integrate high-end technology and management resources in the railway sector, a move aimed at boosting the innovative capacity of China’s railway development.


Wang Jun, head of the institute, compared the role of the new branch to an engine of innovation and a platform for gathering intelligence.


Zheng Changhong, president of CSR, said the solid foundation will enable the company to lead industrial upgrading and transformation.


State-of-the-art products like the CRH380A bullet train and the HXD1 locomotive have fueled the company’s ascent as a world-leading enterprise in the industry, Zheng said.


The institute also plans to explore businesses related to the production of high-end and environmentally-friendly equipment, as well as map out economic and industry strategies.





Railway Spending Up in China

China spent 54.5 billion yuan ($8.8 billion) on railway infrastructure construction in the first quarter, up 28% from a year earlier, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday, citing China Railway Corp., the newly created state-owned company.


The total budget for railway investment this year has been set at 650 billion yuan, up from 631 billion yuan in 2012, Xinhua said.


Of that total, 520 billion yuan is earmarked for railway infrastructure construction, the report said. Some 5,200 kilometers (3,231 miles) of new railway track will be laid this year, it said.


In March, China began overhauling its massive but troubled railway system by inviting greater participation from private investors, possible including foreigners. Under the plan, China's Railways Ministry was dismantled and its administrative and commercial functions separated; the construction and operation of the rail networks put in the hands of China Railway.


The railway system has long been plagued by corruption allegations and heavy debt, and since a deadly 2011 train crash also under a cloud of safety concerns.


Earlier this month, prosecutors charged China's former railway chief Liu Zhijun with bribery and abuse of power, state media said, moving closer to trial the case of a once-powerful official who came to represent China's pervasive government corruption.






China to adopt VAT in rail transport, postal and telecom sectors

China is preparing to extend value-added tax (VAT) reforms to the rail transportation, postal and telecommunications sectors.


A related plan is likely to come out at the end of this year or early next year, Minister of Finance Lou Jiwei and head of the State Administration of Taxation Wang Jun said in an interview Tuesday.


In an effort to avoid double taxation on businesses, the government introduced a pilot plan that replaces the business tax with a value-added duty that is charged only on the added value of each link in the production chain.


By the end of February, the plan had eased taxes by more than 55 billion yuan (8.8 billion U.S. dollars) for businesses in nine regions that are experimenting with the new practice, while small taxpayers there saw an average cut of 40 percent, Wang said.






Environment report's rejection signals rail delay

Hopes of starting construction this year on the Beijing-Shenyang high-speed rail project were dashed again following the rejection of an environmental evaluation report by a watchdog, the Economic Information Daily reported on Wednesday.


Two previous environmental evaluation reports, drafted by the Third Railway Survey and Design Institute Group in 2009 and 2010, for the 700-km-long high-speed rail that links Beijing and Northeast China's Shenyang, were also rejected.


The line, when completed, will be an important part of China's high-speed rail network.


The Ministry of Environmental Protection, which started to review the latest environmental report in November, rejected the report in April, saying that the evaluation "lacked public participation".


Accepting the environmental evaluation report is a precondition for the approval of the project's feasibility report, which mandates the construction.


The ministry asked for another survey with adequate public participation, so a consensus can be reached between groups of various interests, a member of staff at the Third Railway Survey and Design Institute Group told the Economic Information Daily.


Previous media reports said the rail plan caused heated objections among some residents in Beijing over noise pollution fears.


Irregularities were also found in the way the survey was conducted.


Allegations were made that members of the public were induced to give favorable responses through gifts, according to media reports.


Japan’s Kawasaki says China copied bullet train technology

China, home of the world’s largest market for trains, has been busy creating a high-speed train network over the past few years – buying High-Speed Rail (HSR) technology from global train innovators such as Germany, France and Japan to put up what is now the largest HSR network in the world. The failed technology transfer deal with Japanese rail giants Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) was one such deal, an agreement that the Japanese are now regretting as they say that Chinese engineers have allegedly stolen bullet train technology and are about to sell it to the world for cheap.


KHI are the makers of Japan’s legendary bullet train, or shinkansen, one of the world’s fastest, safest, and most efficient high-speed trains. KHI signed a technology transfer contract with CSR Sifang, builders of China’s impressive HSR network, with the agreement that China’s use of the blueprints to develop high-speed railway cars would be limited to domestic applications only. “We didn’t think it was not risky,” KHI’s Harada Takuma, who worked on the Chinese collaboration, said. “But we took on the project because terms and conditions under the tech transfer should have been binding. We had a legal agreement; we felt safe,” Takuma added. But the deal seemed to have backfired on KHI in the worst possible way, as now China is currently poised to make a profit out of the technology. KHI maintains that not only did China copy the technology – they have recently patented remarkably similar high-speed-rail (HSR) tech – CSR Sifang now wants to sell their new trains to the world – claiming it as Chinese.


European and Japanese train-makers are now set to be one-upped by the Chinese, as they will be selling their HSR technology for relatively cheaper. Japan, whose prices would have been the lowest in the market before this, will now be undercut by CSR in selling their trains almost 50% cheaper. Chinese authorities see no problems at all on their end. Beijing claims that China developed its own HSR technology by “digesting” Japanese and German technologies and making it better. In fact, a spokesman of the Ministry of Railways was recently asked if the trains were mere knock-offs. He asserted that China’s HSR was very much superior to Japan’s shinkansen – he said that the two trains “cannot be mentioned in the same breath.”







ABS welcomes free pre-peak rail travel trialze

The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) said that it welcomes the free pre-peak rail travel trial announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).


ABS highlighted that a number of the 16 designated stations support much of the financial industry, which has offices sited along the Shenton Way belt and around the Marina Bay financial district.


ABS said many companies in the financial industry already offer staggered work timings to support different financial operations, including off-peak shift timings or earlier start-times.


LTA's free travel pilot programme will support a larger number of financial sector workers who can opt for flexible working arrangements.


Chairman of the ABS Piyush Gupta said: "The government's announcement of the initiative to offer free pre-peak travel to the city will benefit the workforce in the financial sector. People are at the heart of banking and it is imperative that we provide a conducive work environment for them. The LTA initiative will encourage more workers to avail themselves of these arrangements, translating into greater employee engagement and productivity in the workplace."







Thailand to establish rail investment body

THE THAI government has announced plans to establish a railway investment and regulation unit, taking over functions currently managed by State Railway of Thailand (SRT).


According to the Bangkok Post, the Department of Rail Transport (DRT) will be part of the Transport Ministry and is expected to take a year-and-a-half to set up. The final structure of the DRT has not yet been determined, and ministers still have to decide whether ownership of infrastructure and property should remain with SRT or transfer to the new organisation.


SRT will still be responsible for implementing infrastructure projects and around 1000 track maintenance staff will remain with the railway.


The proposals will be put before the Public Transport Development Commission within the next six months, before being submitted to parliament for approval.


Outlining the restructuring plan on April 17, permanent secretary for transport Mr Wichean Potephosree said that the creation of the DRT would ease the future debt burden on SRT as Thailand steps up investment in the modernisation of its railways. The Thai government is planning to borrow up to Baht 2 trillion ($US 65bn) to fund infrastructure projects over the next seven years, of which 80% will be allocated to rail.






India, Bangladesh agree on northeastern rail link

In a recent move, Dhaka and Delhi have agreed to build a rail connection between Akhaura in Bangladesh and India's Tripura state, a link that would not only boost cross-border trade but also enable India to access its remote northeastern states far faster, via Bangladesh.


Abul Kalam Azad, secretary to Economic Relations Division of the Ministry of Finance, and Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Pankaj Saran, signed a pact February 16th to build a 20km track between Akhaura, a major rail hub in the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh, and Agartala, the capital of Tripura state.


Under the deal, Delhi would provide over $60.3m in aid for the project, expected to be completed in two years. At present, there is only one rail link between India and Bangladesh, between Dhaka and Kolkata.


"The process is under way to form a joint committee to select vendors for the project," Amzad Hossain, Bangladesh Railway additional director general told Khabar South Asia.


"We have got the Indian nomination for the committee; we will start working soon. Hopefully, we can finish the project in the next two years."


Opening markets, boosting development


The current absence of a rail line from Bangladesh to the "Seven Sisters", the seven states of India's northeast, forces India to carry cargo 1,500km through the Siliguri corridor known as "Chicken Neck".


Prior to partition in 1947, Akhaura and Agartala were connected, serving as a major link between Chittagong port and Tripura. After the conflict, Akhaura fell to East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) and Agartala became part of India.


"Any communication link--either road or rail--opens up business opportunities," said Sheikh Afil Uddin, director of the Akij Group company SAF Industries Limited. "So, the Akhaura-Agartala rail link will certainly widen up avenues for the businessmen of both Bangladesh and India."


Humayun Kabir, a Bangladeshi diplomat who served as deputy high commissioner in Kolkata, told Khabar that India would "tremendously be benefitted" from the project.


"They can unload their products in the Chittagong port (from Kolkata or Mumbai) and carry to Agartala, which is connected with other six states," Kabir said. "It will reduce the cost of business. In the future it will also connect Bangladesh and India with Southeast Asia through the (Burma)-Thailand link."


Former Bangladesh Railway directory General T.A. Chowdhury told Khabar the project would fetch foreign currency for Bangladesh Railway to carry Indian cargo from Chittagong port to the landlocked northeastern states via Akhaura.


"At present, the Indian railway travels about 1,500 km to carry cargo to the Seven Sisters. If implemented, the Akhaura-Agartala rail link will reduce the distance to only 200 km," said Chowdhury, one of the negotiators for the project.


Delwar Hossain, a professor of International Relations at Dhaka University, told Khabar the rail link could be "one of the factors for greater integration of India as far as regional connectivity is concerned".


"Again, it will certainly increase business activities and development in its northeastern states," he said.


An Indian high commission statement said the new link will help promote trade and cross-border contact among people, and will open up new markets in the northeastern states for Bangladeshi goods. The link would also be vital for the Trans – Asian Railway Network (TAR), of which both India and Bangladesh are members.


As part of TAR, India is already constructing a 350 km rail link from Jiribam in India to Moreh, Burma. Bangladesh can also benefit by using this connection, the statement said.









Bombardier signalling for Delhi metro extensions

DELHI Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has awarded Bombardier a contract worth around Rs 2.5bn ($US 47m) to supply its Cityflo 350 integrated train control and signalling system for two metro extensions in the Indian capital.


The technology will be installed on the 9.4km northern extension of Line 6 from Central Secretariat to Kashmere Gate and the 14km southern extension from Badarpur to YMCA Chowk in the satellite city of Faridabad. Cityflo 350 will also be deployed on the 11km western extension of Line 5 from Mundka to Bahadurgarh City Park. All three projects are part of the Phase 3 expansion of the Delhi metro network and are due to be completed by 2016.


Bombardier's contract covers the design, supply, and commissioning of the integrated train control and signalling system, including trackside and onboard equipment.


Cityflo 350 includes onboard automatic train protection (ATP) and automatic train operation (ATO), and displays both ATP and ATO information in the driver's cab. Track-to-train communication operates through audio frequency track circuits.


Bombardier has already equipped the initial sections of lines 5 and 6 with Cityflo 350 under a €30m contract awarded by DMRC in September 2007, and the system has been in operation on these lines since 2010.








Express metro link planned for new Beijing Airport

AN express metro is to be constructed from Beijing South station to the Chinese capital's new airport which will be built in the southern district of Daxing. The line is expected to be 37km long and with a journey time of around 30 minutes.


Construction of the Yuan 70bn ($US 11.3bn) airport is due to start next year and be completed in 2018. It will have six runways for commercial flights and a seventh for military use. The airport is forecast to carry 45 million passengers a year initially rising to 70 million by 2025 and will bring much needed relief to Beijing Capital airport which handled 82 million passengers last year and is expected to reach saturation within two years.






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