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UPDATED: September 2, 2015 NO. 47 NOVEMBER 21, 2013
Train Exports on Track
China's high-speed railway exports have a competitive edge in cost, safety, technology and management
By Lan Xinzhen

Safety features are prioritized on the train, with fire alarm systems, cameras in each car and a double-redundancy braking system effectively ensuring safe operation of the train at high speeds.

The designers also developed technology providing an uninterrupted power supply, thus ensuring proper operation of onboard TV and air conditioning systems. Onboard 4G signal from transmitters can cover all six cars giving passengers access to free Internet, while GPS has been installed on the train for station reporting. These functions are currently unavailable on any high-speed trains, subway trains and locomotives in China.

Safety first

At present, only a few countries in the world—such as Germany, France, Japan and China—have developed high-speed rail technology. China, which is making the most rapid advances in high-speed rail, has the world's largest high-speed network in operation. Most of the achievements come from CSR and CNR's research and development.

The Chinese Government is encouraging CSR and CNR, with their high-speed railway technologies, to develop overseas markets. When visiting Thailand in October, Premier Li Keqiang went out of his way to promote China's high-speed railway exports.

Li Hongchang, associate professor of the School of Economics and Management of Beijing Jiaotong University, said that compared with other countries, China's high-speed rail technologies have outstanding advantages.

The biggest advantage is the low cost. The engineering cost of Chinese developed high-speed rail is 130 million yuan ($21.17 million) per km, and the total cost, including management fees and resettlement costs, stand at about 200 million yuan ($32.57 million) per km, only one third or half of the comparable costs from overseas companies.

Moreover, China's high-speed railway technologies are held by CSR and CNR, therefore when exporting trains, China can offer packaged services including technology. This is difficult for foreign countries to compete with, as their technologies are held by many different companies.

According to Li, China also has an advantage unavailable to other countries: Its total high-speed railway network is almost as large as those in all other countries combined, offering Chinese companies experience far beyond their foreign counterparts. For years China has developed its own technologies by learning from others, with China having the ability and experience of integrating global high-speed railway technologies.

Li thinks that in the application of high-speed railways running at 200 km and 250 km per hour, China is very competitive in the international market. Therefore, these two kinds of high-speed railways should be the focus of exports.

Considering exports of China's high-speed railways, Hong Kong-based newspaper Wenweipo quoted Wang Mengshu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a rail expert, who said China has professional technicians in areas from rail bed building to manufacturing of trains, which are unavailable in other countries.

Foreign customers, however, regard safety as the most important consideration. The train crash in Wenzhou on July 23, 2011 is frequently mentioned by customers.

Li thinks the Wenzhou accident was due to a dereliction of duty rather than defects in technology.

When exporting trains, China is also selling its management experience and personnel training, together with railway technologies, which when combined should allay the safety concerns of all international customers.

Email us at: lanxinzhen@bjreview.com

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