High-speed railways: a source of pride for China

The train station in Fuzhou City, in the southeast of China’s Fujian Province. / VCG

The train station in Fuzhou City, in the southeast of China’s Fujian Province. / VCG

Editor’s Note: Djoomart Otorbaev is the former Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, a distinguished professor at the Belt and Road School of Peking Normal University and a member of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of CGTN.

On May 27, the US Senate approved a broad set of laws aimed specifically at improving the country’s ability to compete with Chinese technology. Congress is deeply concerned that the country is lagging behind in the development of a range of modern technologies in its competition with China. Senators voted to end debate over the $ 250 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) of 2021. The move by lawmakers was a vital addition to an unprecedented 2, $ 3 trillion launched by President Joe Biden in March, which explicitly provides $ 80 billion to improve U.S. rail services.

As global economic competition between the two countries intensifies, investment in transport infrastructure is becoming an area in which Washington seeks to catch up with Beijing. Experts say the allocation of these funds is the government’s biggest investment in rail transport in decades.

President Biden, sometimes referred to as “Amtrak Joe” for his love of train travel, seems to live up to his name. In a meeting with Republican senators on the upcoming infrastructure proposal, he warned that China was ready to “eat our lunch” with infrastructure investments, explicitly highlighting China’s ambitious railways initiatives. great speed.

Let’s try to understand how real America’s ambitions are to get ahead of China in the development of modern high-speed rail transport – especially given Beijing’s latest plans for the development and improvement of its own rail and regional infrastructure.

It’s hard to believe that China didn’t have high-speed rail service just twenty years ago. The country’s first high-speed rail line, the Qinhuangdao-Shenyang Passenger Railway, was built in 1999 and opened for commercial operation in 2003. In 2008, Beijing decided on an unprecedented investment program in the development of these networks of 4 trillion yuan (about 0.64 trillion dollars). ). Many now agree that these measures have become one of the decisive steps to overcome the consequences of the global financial crisis, then to achieve rapid economic growth and accelerate the progress of urbanization.

Over the past decade, domestic enterprises have become global leaders in high-speed train technology and design, thanks to the brilliant talents of Chinese scientists and engineers, amazing learning skills and unprecedented support from their government.

China’s National Railways reported a total of 2.166 billion passenger trips in 2020, down 39.4% from 3.578 billion in 2019, due to restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nanchang West Station in Nanchang City, east China’s Jiangxi Province, April 5, 2019. / VCG

Nanchang West Railway Station in Nanchang City, east China’s Jiangxi Province, April 5, 2019. / VCG

By the end of 2020, China’s National Railways was serving more than 9,600 high-speed trains per day, including the very first overnight high-speed sleeper services on selected longer routes. 75% of Chinese cities of 500,000 or more inhabitants had direct access to high-speed rail. New technological solutions such as autonomous train control (without driving) and modern signaling and control technologies have been developed and are currently in use.

China’s high-speed railroad construction performance stands out, especially compared to that achieved in other developed countries. In Spain, which ranks second in the world with the most extensive high-speed network in Europe, the total length of high-speed trains is around 3,200 kilometers, or only 8% of the total length of Chinese trains. . The UK currently has only 107 kilometers of rail, adapted to operate at speeds above 250 km per hour.

There is only one high-speed rail route in the United States, the Amtrak Northeast Corridor. The Acela Express reaches a top speed of 150 miles per hour in three zones totaling about 55 miles of the 231 mile segment, with an overall average speed of about 100 miles per hour.

With the highest safety requirements, Chinese scientists and engineers have achieved significant savings on the cost of building high-speed railways. The World Bank estimated in 2019 that currently the average cost of China’s high-speed rail network is $ 17-21 million per km, a third less than the cost of most Western countries. At £ 309million (around $ 377million) per mile, the UK’s high-speed line 2, which is currently under construction, is the most expensive high-speed line in the world.

China has made high-speed rail transport the preferred means of transporting people over long distances. But the emergence of these railways also became the most important social phenomenon, a source of pride for the citizens of the country. Even more visible results await us in the next 15 years.

(If you would like to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at [email protected])

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