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High-speed rail in China

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High-speed rail in China

High-speed rail (HSR) trains in China
A China Railways CRH2C (left) and a China Railways CRH3C (right) train in Tianjin. The CRH2 is a modified E2-1000 Series Shinkansen. The CRH3 is based on Siemens' ICE3(class/Baureihe 403).
An eight-car China Railways CRH5 train-set. The CRH5 is derived from the Alstom Pendolino ETR600.
Chinese designed CRH380A train leaving Shanghai's Hongqiao Station.
High-speed rail in China
Traditional Chinese 中國高速鐵路
Simplified Chinese 中国高速铁路

High-speed rail (HSR) in China may refer to any commercial train service in China with an average speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) or higher. By that measure, China has the world's longest HSR network with over 15,448 km (9,599 mi) of track in service as of December 2014,[1] including the world's longest line, the 2,298 km (1,428 mi) Beijing–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway.[2]

Since high-speed rail service in China was introduced on April 18, 2007, daily ridership has grown from 237,000 in 2007[3] to 1.33 million in 2012,[4] making the Chinese high-speed rail network the most heavily used in the world.[5][6] China's high-speed rail network consists of upgraded conventional railways, newly built high-speed passenger designated lines (PDLs), and the world's first high-speed commercial magnetic levitation (maglev) line. Nearly all high-speed rail lines and rolling stock are owned and operated by the China Railway Corporation, the national railway operator formerly known as the Railway Ministry. The Shanghai Maglev Train is owned and operated by the government of Shanghai Municipality.

Over the past decade, the country has undergone an HSR building boom with generous funding from the Chinese government's economic stimulus program. The network is rapidly expanding and is expected to reach 18,000 km (11,000 mi) by the end of 2015, including 6,700 km (4,200 mi) of track capable of accommodating train speeds of 300–350 km/h (190–220 mph) and 11,300 km (7,000 mi) of track for train speeds of 200–250 km/h (120–160 mph).[7][8] The pace of high-speed rail expansion slowed for a period in 2011 after the removal of Chinese Railways Minister Liu Zhijun for corruption and a fatal high-speed railway accident near Wenzhou, but has since rebounded. Concerns about HSR safety, high ticket prices, low ridership, financial sustainability of high-speed rail projects and environmental impact have drawn greater scrutiny from the Chinese press.[9]

China's early high-speed trains were imported or built under technology transfer agreements with foreign train-makers including Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Chinese engineers then re-designed internal train components and built indigenous trains that can reach operational speeds of up to 380 km/h (240 mph).[10][11]


  • History 1
    • Precursor 1.1
    • Early planning 1.2
    • The "Speed Up" campaigns 1.3
    • The conventional rail v. maglev debate 1.4
    • Acquisition of foreign technology 1.5
    • Technology transfer 1.6
    • Early dedicated high-speed rail lines 1.7
    • Corruption and concerns 1.8
    • Wenzhou accident 1.9
    • Slowdown in financing and construction 1.10
    • Recovery 1.11
  • Current HSR expansion 2
    • Policy justifications 2.1
    • HSR construction financing 2.2
    • Cost comparisons 2.3
    • Impact on airlines 2.4
  • Track network 3
    • Upgraded railways 3.1
    • National high-speed rail grid (4+4) 3.2
    • Other high-speed rail lines 3.3
    • High-speed intercity railway 3.4
  • Service 4
    • Ridership 4.1
    • CRH service on upgraded conventional lines 4.2
    • CRH service on high-speed lines 4.3
    • Overnight high-speed trains 4.4
  • Technology 5
    • Rolling stock 5.1
    • Track technology 5.2
    • Technology export 5.3
  • Maglev high-speed rail 6
  • Fastest trains in China 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The Asia Express steam locomotive, which operated commercially from 1934 to 1943 in Manchuria could reach 130 km/h (81 mph) and was one of the fastest trains in Asia.


The earliest example of higher-speed commercial train service in China was the Asia Express, a luxury passenger train that operated in Japanese-controlled Manchuria from 1934 to 1943.[12] The steam-powered train, which ran on the Southern Manchuria Railway from Dalian to Xinjing (Changchun), had a top commercial speed of 110 km/h (68 mph) and test speed of 130 km/h (81 mph).[12] It was faster than the fastest trains in Japan at the time. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, this train model was renamed the SL-7 and was used by the Chinese Minister of Railways.

Early planning

In the early 1990s, diesel-powered locomotives in China could attain a maximum speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) on passenger trains. Here a N595 diesel locomotive is shown hauling passenger coaches on the Guangzhou–Sanshui Railway at Foshan in 2008.

State planning for China's current high-speed railway network began in the early 1990s. In December 1990, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) submitted a proposal to build a high-speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai to the National People's Congress.[13] At the time, the Beijing–Shanghai Railway was already at capacity, and the proposal was jointly studied by the Science & Technology Commission, State Planning Commission, State Economic & Trade Commission, and the MOR.[13] In December 1994, the State Council commissioned a feasibility study for the line.[13]

Policy planners debated the necessity and economic viability of high-speed rail service. Supporters argued that high-speed rail would boost future economic growth. Opponents noted that high-speed rail in other countries were expensive and mostly unprofitable. Overcrowding on existing rail lines, they said, could be solved by expanding capacity through higher speed and frequency of service. In 1995, Premier Li Peng announced that preparatory work on the Beijing Shanghai HSR would begin in the 9th Five Year Plan (1996–2000), but construction was not scheduled until the first decade of the 21st century.

The "Speed Up" campaigns

High-speed rail service on the Guangzhou–Shenzhen Railway
From 1998 until 2007 the Guangshen Railway Company operated a "Xinshisu" Swedish SJ 2000 high-speed train on the Guangshen Railway as the Guangdong Through Train from Zhaoqing railway station in Guangdong Province to Hung Hom Station in Hong Kong. The Xinshisu trainset was shipped back to Sweden in 2012.
In 2007, the Guangshen Railway became the first in the country to have four tracks, which allow faster passenger train traffic (on dedicated tracks third and fourth from the right) to be separated from slower freight traffic (on tracks second and fifth from the right).

In 1993, commercial train service in China averaged only 48 km/h (30 mph) and was steadily losing market share to airline and highway travel on the country's expanding network of expressways.[14][15] The MOR focused modernization efforts on increasing the service speed and capacity on existing lines through double-tracking, electrification, improvements in grade (through tunnels and bridges), reductions in turn curvature, and installation of continuous welded rail. Through five rounds of "Speed-Up" campaigns in April 1997, October 1998, October 2000, November 2001, and April 2004, passenger service on 7,700 km (4,800 mi) of existing tracks was upgraded to reach sub-high speeds of 160 km/h (100 mph).[16]

A notable example is the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway, which in December 1994 became the first line in China to offer sub-high-speed service of 160 km/h (99 mph) using domestically produced DF-class diesel locomotives. The line was electrified in 1998, and Swedish-made X 2000 trains increased service speed to 200 km/h (124 mph). After the completion of a third track in 2000 and a fourth in 2007, the line became the first in China to run high-speed passenger and freight service on separate tracks.

The completion of the sixth round of the "Speed-Up" Campaign in April 2007 brought HSR service to more existing lines: 423 km (263 mi) capable of 250 km/h (155 mph) train service and 3,002 km (1,865 mi) capable of 200 km/h (124 mph).[17][18] In all, travel speed increased on 22,000 km (14,000 mi), or one-fifth, of the national rail network, and the average speed of passenger trains improved to 70 km/h (43 mph). The introduction of more non-stop service between large cities also helped to reduce travel time. The non-stop express train from Beijing to Fuzhou shortened travel time from 33.5 to less than 20 hours.[19] In addition to track and scheduling improvements, the MOR also deployed faster CRH series trains. During the Sixth Railway Speed Up Campaign, 52 CRH trainsets (CRH1, CRH2 and CRH5) entered into operation. The new trains reduced travel time between Beijing and Shanghai by two hours to just under 10 hours.

Higher-speed express train service allowed more trains to share the tracks and improved rail transport capacity. But high-speed trains often have to share tracks with slower, heavy freight trains—in some cases with as little as 5 minutes headway.[19] To attain higher speeds and transport capacity, planners began to consider passenger-dedicated HSR lines on a grand scale.

The conventional rail v. maglev debate

The development of the HSR network in China was initially held up by a debate over the type of track technology to be used. In June 1998, at a State Council meeting with the Chinese Academies of Sciences and Engineering, Premier Zhu Rongji asked whether the high-speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai still being planned could use maglev technology.[20] At the time, planners were divided between using high-speed trains with wheels that run on conventional standard gauge tracks or magnetic levitation trains that run on special maglev tracks for a new national high-speed rail network.

High-speed trains in China before the CRH series
The China Railways SS8 (Shaoshan 8) electric locomotive was produced from 1996 to 2001 and provided sub-high-speed rail service. The train set a Chinese rail speed record of 240 km/h (150 mph) in 1998.
The domestically produced China Railways DJJ1 (Blue Arrow) train, first deployed on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway in 2001, could attain a top speed of 235.6 km/h (146.4 mph). The DJJ1 trains were transferred to lines in southwest China in 2008.
The domestically produced China Railways DJJ2 (China Star) high-speed train set speed record of 321 km/h (199 mph) on the Qinshen Passenger Railway, and was used in commercial service briefly from 2006 to 2007 before it was abandoned in favor of imported high-speed train technology.

Maglev received a big boost in 2000 when the Shanghai Municipal Government agreed to purchase a turnkey TransRapid train system from Germany for the 30.5 km (19.0 mi) rail link connecting Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the city. In 2004, the Shanghai Maglev Train became the world's first commercially operated high-speed maglev. It remains the fastest commercial train in the world with peak speeds of 431 km/h (268 mph) and makes the 30.5 km (19.0 mi) trip in less than 7.5 minutes.

The Shanghai Maglev Train running on a special maglev track, departing the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The maglev train can reach a top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph).

Despite unmatched advantage in speed, the maglev has not gained widespread use in China's high-speed rail network due to high cost, German refusal to share technology and concerns about safety. The price tag of the Shanghai Maglev was believed to be $1.3 billion and was partially financed by the German government. The refusal of the Transrapid Consortium to share technology and source production in China made large-scale maglev production much more costly than high-speed train technology for conventional lines. Finally, residents living along the proposed maglev route have raised health concerns about noise and electromagnetic radiation emitted by the trains, despite an environmental assessment by the Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences saying the line was safe.[21] These concerns have prevented the construction of the proposed extension of the maglev to Hangzhou. Even the more modest plan to extend the maglev to Shanghai's other airport, Hongqiao, has stalled. Instead, a conventional subway line was built to connect the two airports, and a conventional high-speed rail line was built between Shanghai and Hangzhou.

While maglev was drawing attention to Shanghai, conventional track HSR technology was being tested on the newly completed Qinhuangdao-Shenyang Passenger Railway. This 405 km (252 mi) standard gauge, dual-track, electrified line was built between 1999 and 2003. In June 2002, a domestically made DJF2 train set a record of 292.8 km/h (181.9 mph) on the track. The China Star (DJJ2) train followed the same September with a new record of 321 km/h (199 mph). The line supports commercial train service at speeds of 200–250 km/h (120–160 mph), and has become a segment of the rail corridor between Beijing and Northeast China. The Qinhuangdao-Shenyang Line showed the greater compatibility of HSR on conventional track with the rest of China's standard gauge rail network.

In 2004, the State Council in its Mid-to-Long Term Railway Development Plan, adopted conventional track HSR technology over maglev for the Beijing–Shanghai High Speed Railway and three other north-south high-speed rail lines. This decision ended the debate and cleared the way for rapid construction of standard gauge, passenger dedicated HSR lines in China.[22][23]

Acquisition of foreign technology

First generation of CRH train sets

Despite setting speed records on test tracks, the DJJ2, DJF2 and other domestically produced high-speed trains were insufficiently reliable for commercial operation.[24] The State Council turned to advanced technology abroad but made clear in directives that China's HSR expansion cannot only benefit foreign economies.[24] China's expansion must also be used to develop its own high-speed train building capacity through technology transfers. The State Council, MOR and state-owned train builders, the China North Car (CNR) and China South Car (CSR) used China's large market and competition among foreign train-makers to induce technology transfers.

In 2003, the MOR was believed to favor Japan's

  • The International Maglev Board: Maglev in China
  • – Timetables and train connections (Chinese)
  • Individual Map for each train in Google maps with timetable in Chinese or English
  • Longest high speed rail networks in china

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See also

  • The fastest train service measured by peak operational speed is the Shanghai Maglev Train which can reach 431 km/h (268 mph). Due to the limited length of the Shanghai Maglev track (30 km)(18.6 mi), the maglev train's average trip speed is only 245.5 km/h (152.5 mph).
  • The fastest train service measured by average trip speed from 2009 until 2011 was on the Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, where from December 2009 until July 1, 2011, the CRH3/CRH2 coupled-train sets averaged 312.5 km/h (194.2 mph) on the 922 km (573 mi) route from Wuhan to Guangzhou North. However, on July 1, 2011 in order to save energy and reduce operating costs, the maximum speed of Chinese high-speed trains was reduced to 300 km/h, and the average speed of the fastest trains on the Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway was reduced to 272.68 km/h (169 mph).
  • The top speed attained by a non-maglev train in China is 487.3 km/h (302.8 mph) by a CRH380BL train on the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway during a testing run on January 10, 2011.[297]

The "fastest" train commercial service can be defined alternatively by a train's top speed or average trip speed.

The Shanghai Maglev train, with a top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph), is the fastest train in China. The maglev train has remained confined to its original 30 km (19 mi) track as state planners chose high-speed trains that run on conventional tracks for the national HSR network.

Fastest trains in China

China has the world's only maglev high-speed train line in operation: The Shanghai Maglev Train, a turnkey Transrapid maglev demonstration line 30.5 km long. The trains have a top operational speed of 430 km/h and can reach a top non-commercial speed of 501 km/h. It has shuttled passengers between Shanghai's Longyang Road Metro Station and Shanghai Pudong International Airport since March, 2004. Service was briefly interrupted by an electrical fire in 2006. Shanghai authorities have been trying without success to extend the 30.5 km maglev line. An intercity link with Hangzhou was approved by the central government in 2006, but construction has been postponed.[296] Work on a shorter extension to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport is also stalled.

Maglev high-speed rail

In January 2014, the China Railway Construction Corporation completed a 30-km section of the Ankara-Istanbul high-speed railway between Eskişehir and İnönü in western Turkey.[295]

Chinese train-makers and rail builders have signed agreements to build HSRs in Turkey, Venezuela and Argentina[291] and are bidding on HSR projects in the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil (São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro) and Myanmar, and other countries.[39] They are competing directly with the established European and Japanese manufacturers, and sometimes partnering with them. In Saudi Arabia's Haramain High Speed Rail Project, Alstom partnered with China Railway Construction Corp. to win the contract to build phase I of the Mecca to Medina HSR line, and Siemens has joined CSR to bid on phase II.[292] China is also competing with Japan, Germany, South Korea, Spain, France and Italy to bid for California's high-speed rail line project, which would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.[293] In November 2009, the MOR signed preliminary agreements with the state's high-speed rail authority and General Electric (GE) under which China would license technology, provide financing and furnish up to 20 percent of the parts with the remaining sourced from American suppliers, and final assembly of the rolling stock in the United States.[294]

Technology export

Type Classify Technology line
CRTSIs slab track RTRI, Japan Hada PDL
CRTSIIs slab track Max Bögl, Germany Jingjin ICL
CRTSIIIs slab track CRCC,China Chengguan PDL
CRTSIb ballastless track, Germany Wuguang PDL
CRTSIIb ballastless track Züblin, Germany Zhengxi PDL
Typical application of track technology in China high-speed lines

Many of the Passenger Designated Lines use ballastless tracks, which allow for smoother train rides at high speeds and can withstand heavy use without warping. The ballastless track technology, imported from Germany, carries higher upfront costs but can reduce maintenance costs.[289][290]

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev aboard a high-speed train in Hainan in April 2011.
Ballastless tracks in China.

Track technology

Equipment type Top speed in test Designed speed Seating capacity Formation Power
(under 25 kV)
Enter Service
CRH1A 278 km/h (173 mph) 250 668 or 611 or 645 5M3T 5,300 kW 2007
CRH1B 292 km/h (181 mph) 250 1299 10M6T 11,000 kW 2009
CRH1E 250 618 or 642 10M6T 11,000 kW 2009
CRH2A 282 km/h (175 mph) 250 610 or 588 4M4T 4,800 kW 2007
CRH2B 275 km/h (171 mph) 250 1230 8M8T 9,600 kW 2008
CRH2C Stage 1 394.2 km/h (244.9 mph) 300 610 6M2T 7,200 kW 2008
CRH2C Stage 2 350 610 6M2T 8,760 kW 2010
CRH2E 250 630 8M8T 9,600 kW 2008
CRH3C 394.3 km/h (245.0 mph) 350 600 or 556 4M4T 8,800 kW 2008
CRH5A 250 622 or 586 or 570 5M3T 5,500 kW 2007
CRH380A 416.6 km/h (258.9 mph) 380 494 6M2T 9,600 kW 2010
CRH380AL 486.1 km/h (302.0 mph) 380 1027 14M2T 20,440 kW 2010
CRH380B 380 unknown 4M4T 9,200 kW 2011 (plan)
CRH380BL 487.3 km/h (302.8 mph) 380 1004 8M8T 18,400 kW 2010
CRH380CL 380 8M8T 19,200 kW 2012 (plan)
CRH380D 380 495 4M4T 10,000 kW 2012 (plan)
CRH380DL 380 1013 8M8T 20,000 kW Canceled (2012 original plan)
CRH6 220 586 4M4T unknown 2011 (plan)

CRH1A, B,E, CRH2A, B,E, and CRH5A are designed for a maximum operating speed (MOR) of 200 km/h and can reach up to 250 km/h. CRH3C and CRH2C designs have an MOR of 300 km/h, and can reach up to 350 km/h, with a top testing speed more than 380 km/h. However, in practical terms, issues such as cost of maintenance, comfort, cost and safety make the maximum design speed of more than 380 km/h impractical and remain limiting factors.

  • CRH1 produced by Bombardier's joint venture Sifang Power (Qingdao) Transportation (BST), CRH1A & CRH1B, nicknamed "Metro" or "Bread", derived from Bombardier Regina, CRH1E, nicknamed "Lizard", is Bombardier's ZEFIRO 250 design.
    • CRH1A; sets consists of 8 cars; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h.
    • CRH1B; a modified 16-cars version; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h.
    • CRH1E; is a 16-car high-speed sleeper version; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h.
  • CRH2; nicknamed "Hairtail" derived from E2 Series 1000 Shinkansen.
    • CRH2A; In 2006, China has unveiled (CRH2), a modified version of the Japanese Shinkansen E2-1000 series. An order for 60 8-car sets had been placed in 2004, with the first few built in Japan, the rest produce by Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock in China.[267]
    • CRH2B; a modified 16-cars version of CRH2; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h.
    • CRH2C (Stage one); a modified version of CRH2 has maximum operating speed up to 300 km/h by replacing two intermediate trailer cars with motored cars.
    • CRH2C (Stage two); a modified version of CRH2C (Stage one version) has maximum operating speed up to 350 km/h by replacing motors with more powerful ones.
    • CRH2E; a modified 16-cars version of CRH2 with sleeping cars.
  • CRH3C; nicknamed "Rabbit", derived from Siemens ICE3 (class 403); 8 car sets; maximum operating speed of 350 km/h
  • CRH5A, nicknamed "Donkey", derived from Alstom Pendolino ETR600; 8 car sets; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h[268]
  • CRH6; Designed by CSR Puzhen and CSR Sifang, will be manufactured by CSR Jiangmen, it is designed to have two versions, top operating speed of 220 km/h version and top operating speed of 160 km/h version, will be used at 200 km/h or 250 km/h Inter-city High Speed Rail lines, planned to enter service in late 2012.
  • CRH380A; Maximum operating speed of 380 km/h; Manufacturer by Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock; entered service in 2010.
  • CRH380B; upgraded version of CRH3; maximum operating speed of 380 km/h, manufactured by Tangshan Railway Vehicle & Changchun Railway Vehicles; entered service in 2011.
  • CRH380CL; Designed and manufactured by Changchun Railway Vehicles maximum operating speed of 380 km/h, planned to enter service in 2012.
  • CRH380D; also named Zefiro 380; maximum operating speed of 380 km/h; manufactured by Bombardier Sifang (Qingdao) Transportation Ltd. (BST); planned to enter service in 2012.
    • CRH380D; 8-cars version.
    • CRH380DL; 16-cars version (Order has since been converted to D sets and additional Zefiro 250 and 250NG sets.)

China Railway High-speed runs different electric multiple unit (trainsets), the designs of which all are imported from other nations and given the designations CRH-1 through CRH-5. CRH trainsets are intended to provide fast and convenient travel between cities. Some of the trainsets are manufactured locally through technology transfer, a key requirement for China. The signalling, track and support structures, control software and station design are developed domestically with foreign elements as well, so the system as a whole could be called Chinese. China currently holds many new patents related to the internal components of these train sets since they have re-designed major components so the trains can run at a much higher speed than the original foreign train design.

Sleeping compartment inside CRH2E train.
Dining car inside CRH1 train.
VIP compartment inside a CRH380BL train.
Conductor's compartment on the CRH3

Rolling stock


In 2014 Chunyun season, overnight HSR first ran on Beijing-Guangzhou (Jingguang) and other lines.

Elsewhere, the fastest overnight rail service available is provided by fairly fast, but "conventional" (not CRH) Z-series trains. Some of them also use certain sections of the high-speed rail network; e.g., the planned Shanghai-Chengdu train Z121/2/3/4 will use the Huhanrong Line from Nanjing to Wuhan.[266]

Unlike the "conventional" (non-CRH trains), which run round the clock, most high-speed rail lines operations shut down each night. (See e.g. schedules for Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station; as of mid-December 2012, the first train of the day to leave the station is the 06:33 train to Wuhan, and the last one is the 21:10 trains to Nanjing, which arrives there before 23:00.[265]). While there are several sleeper EMU trainsets (abbreviated 动卧, dongwo) in existence running on the upgraded rail, the overnight service is mostly limited to a few night trains between Shanghai and Beijing. With the schedule change planned for 2012-12-21, some of these trainsets will be re-purposed to also provide overnight high-speed service between Shanghai and Xi'an North.[266]

Overnight high-speed trains

CRH service on high-speed lines

B. Long-haul service (typically, listed in schedules as G-series or D-series trains):

A. Intercity service (typically, listed in schedules as C-series or D-series trains):

As of September 2010, there were 2,876 kilometres (1,787 mi) of upgraded conventional railways in China that can accommodate trains running speeds of 200 to 250 km/h.[220] Over time with the completion of the national high-speed passenger-dedicated rail network, more CRH service will shift from these lines to the high-speed dedicated lines.

Two coupled 8-car CRH1A electric multiple unit train sets in Nanchang.
CRH2C on the Longhai Railway outside Xian's city walls.
CRH service on the upgraded Xiaoshan-Ningbo Railway.

CRH service on upgraded conventional lines

Annual HSR ridership is highest in the world. China is the third country, after Japan and France, to have one billion cumulative HSR passengers.


China Railways, the MOR's national rail service operator, provides high-speed train service called China Railway High-speed (CRH) (中国铁路高速) on upgraded conventional rail lines, national high-speed railways and intercity high-speed lines. The CRH's high-speed trains are also called "Harmony Express." In October 2010, CRH service more than 1,000 trains per day, with a daily ridership of about 925,000.[219] as of January, 2011, a total of 495 CRH trainsets were put into use.

Passenger tapping China Resident ID Card to board a train instead of using a traditional ticket.
The intercity train on the Changchun–Jilin Intercity Railway.


Line Length
Design Speed
Construction Start Date Open Date
Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway 115 350 2005-04-07 2008-08-01
Chengdu–Dujiangyan Intercity Railway 65 220 2008-11-04 2010-05-12
Shanghai–Nanjing Intercity Railway 301 350 2008-07-01 2010-07-01
Nanchang–Jiujiang Intercity Railway 131 250 2007-06-28 2010-09-20
Hainan Eastern Ring Railway 308 250 2007-09-29 2010-12-30
Changchun–Jilin Intercity Railway 111 250 2007-05-13 2010-12-30[185]
Guangzhou–Zhuhai Intercity Railway (mainline) 117 200 2005-12-18 2011-01-07[186]
Guangzhou–Zhuhai Intercity Railway (Xinhui branch) 27 200 2005-12-18 2011-01-07[186]
Nanjing–Hangzhou Intercity Railway 251 350 2008-12-28 2013-07-01[144]
Liuzhou–Nanning Intercity Railway 223 250 2008-12-27 2013-12-28[159]
Wuchang–Xianning Intercity Railway 90[188] 250 2009-03-22 2013-12-28[189]
Chengdu–Dujiangyan Intercity Railway (Pengzhou branch) 21 200 2009-09-27[190] 2014-04-30[191]
Wuhan–Huangshi Intercity Railway 97 250 2009-03-22 2014-06-18[192]
Wuhan–Huanggang Intercity Railway 66 250 2009-03-22 2014-06-18[192]
Jiangyou–Mianyang–Chengdu–Leshan Intercity Railway 319 200 2008-12-30 2014[193]
Chengdu–Pujiang Intercity Railway 200 99 2010-10-16[194] 2015[195]
Zhengzhou–Jiaozuo Intercity Railway 69 200 2009-12-29[196] 2014[197]
Zhengzhou–Xuchang Intercity Railway 101 200 2009-12-29[196] 2014[198]
Zhengzhou–Kaifeng Intercity Railway 50 200 2009-12-29[196] 2014[199]
Changsha–Zhuzhou–Xiangtan Intercity Railway 96 200 2010-07-02 2014-07-02
Nanjing–Anqing Intercity Railway 257 250 2008-12-28 2014-07[200]
Harbin–Qiqihar Intercity Railway 286 250 2008-11-25 2014[201]
Hankou–Xiaogan Intercity Railway 61 200 2009-03-22 2014
Dongguan–Huizhou Intercity Railway 97 200 2009-05-08[202] 2014[203]
Foshan–Zhaoqing Intercity Railway 85 200 2009-09-29[204] 2014[205]
Qingdao–Rongcheng Intercity Railway 299 250 2009-11-30 2014[206]
Chengdu–Chongqing Intercity Railway 305 300 2009 2014
Shenyang–Dandong Intercity Railway 208 350 2010-03-17[207] 2015[208]
Dandong–Dalian Intercity Railway 296 200 2010-03-17[207] 2015[209]
Chongqing–Wanzhou Intercity Railway 250 350 2009 2016[210]
Hainan Western Ring Railway 342 250 2012-10 2016[211]
Guangzhou–Qingyuan Intercity Railway 38 200 2012-11-22[212] 2016
Guangzhou–Foshan Intercity Railway 35 200 2012 2016[213]
Wuhan–Jiujiang Intercity Railway (Huangshi–Jiujiang section) 101 250 2013-12-29[182] 2016
Beijing–Tangshan Intercity Railway 160 350 2009
Harbin-Jiamusi Intercity Railway 343 200 2014-06-30[214] 2018[215]
Hangzhou–Huangshan Intercity Railway 265 250 2014-06-30[216] 2018
Harbin-Mudanjiang Intercity Railway 293 250 201x 201x+4[217]
Wuhan-Shiyan Intercity Railway 438 200 201x -[218]
. Operational lines are marked with green background

Intercity railways are designed to provide regional high-speed rail service between large cities and metropolitan areas that are generally within the same province. Intercity HSR service speeds range from 200–350 km/h (120–220 mph). Construction schedule

High-speed intercity railway

Lines Design Speed (km/h) Length (km) Construction
Start Date
Open Date
Longyan-Xiamen Railway 200 171 2006-12-25 2012-06-29[174]
Xiangtang-Putian Railway 200 635 2007-11-23 2013-09-26[175]
Hengyang–Liuzhou Railway 200 498 2008-12-11 2013-12-28[176]
Nanping-Sanming-Longyan Railway 250 247 2010-12-25 2014[177]
Ganzhou–Longyan Railway 200 274 2009-12-29 2014
Guangzhou-Nanning Railway 250 577 2008-09-11 2014-04-18[178]
Chongqing–Lanzhou Railway 200 832 2009[179] 2015
Chengdu–Lanzhou Railway 200 730 2011-02-26[180] 2017
Jiujiang–Quzhou Railway 200 333[181] 2013-12-29[182] 2017
Shanghai–Nantong Railway 200 137 2014-03-01[183] 2018
Fuzhou–Pingtan Railway 160-200 88.4 2013-10-31[184] -
Class I high-speed railways
Map showing some of China's intercity railways, including lines already operational (red) and lines under construction.
[corridor map]
Route Description Designed


Start Date

Open Date
Chengdu–Guangzhou (Chengguang High-Speed Railway)
HSR from the Pearl River Delta to the Sichuan Basin via Guiyang & Guilin. 300–350 1376 2008-10-13 2014
(Chengdu–Guiyang High-Speed Railway)
PDL connecting Chengdu & Guiyang via Leshan, Yibin & Bijie. 350 519 2010 2014
(Guiyang–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway)
PDL connecting Guiyang & Guangzhou. 300 857 2008-10-13 2014
(Nanchang-Shenzhen High-Speed Railway)
HSR from the Pearl River Delta to the Jiangxi via Ganzhou 200–350 880 2015 2020
(Nanchang–Ganzhou High-Speed Railway)
PDL connecting Nanchang & Ganzhou. 350 422 2015 2020
(Ganzhou–Shenzhen High-Speed Railway)
PDL connecting Ganzhou & Shenzhen. 250 458 2015[160] 2020
(Datong–Xi'an High-Speed Railway)
HSR from Datong to Xi'an via Taiyuan. 250–350 859 2009-12-03 2014-07-01[161]
(Maoming–Zhanjiang High-speed railway)
HSR from Maoming to Zhanjiang 250 103 2009-03-21[162] 2013-12-28[163]
(Shenzhen-Maoming High-speed railway)
HSR from Shenzhen to Maoming via Nansha, Zhongshan, Jiangmen & Yangjiang 250 372 2013[164] 2016
(Tianjin–Baoding High-speed railway)
HSR from Tianjin to Baoding via Bazhou & Baiyangdian. 250 158 2011-03-18 2015[165]
Beijing-Zhangjiakou HSR from Beijing to Zhangjiakou. 200 173 2014 2017
Zhangjiakou–Hohhot HSR from Zhangjiakou to Hohhot via Ulanqab. 250 286 2011-3 2014
Datong–Zhangjiakou HSR from Datong to Zhangjiakou 250 137 201x -
(Lanzhou-Xinjiang High-Speed Railway)
HSR from Lanzhou to Ürümqi via Xining, Zhangye, Jiuquan, Jiayuguan, Hami & Turpan 300 1776 2010 2014
HSR from Lanzhou to Hami via Xining, Zhangye, Jiuquan & Jiayuguan 300 1236 2010 2014-12
HSR from Hami to Ürümqi via & Turpan 300 540 2010 2014-11-16
(Hefei–Fuzhou High-Speed Railway)
HSR from the Hefei to Fuzhou via Huangshan, Shangrao & Wuyishan. 250 806 2010-04-27 2014
HSR from Xi'an to Chengdu via Hanzhong and Guangyuan. 250 510 2010 2015
Chongqing–Guiyang HSR from Chongqing to Guiyang. 250 345 2010 2015[166]
(Yunnan–Guangxi High-speed railway)
HSR from Nanning to Kunming via Bose. 200–250 710 2010-12-27 2016[167]
Jilin–Hunchun HSR linking Jilin and Hunchun 250 359 2010[168] 2014
Shangqiu–Hefei–Hangzhou HSR linking Shangqiu, Hefei and Hangzhou 350 770 2014[169] 2020[170]
Zhengzhou–Wanzhou HSR linking Zhengzhou, Xiangyang, Badong and Wanzhou - 770 2015[171] 2020
Qianjiang–Zhangjiajie–Changde HSR linking Chongqing and Changsha 200 340 2014[172] 2019
Meizhou–Chaoshan HSR linking Meizhou and Chaozhou 250 120 2014[173] 2017
Lianyungang – Huai’an – Yangzhou – Zhenjiang HSR linking Lianyungang, Huai'an, Yangzhou and Zhenjiang 250 305 2014 2019

Operational lines are marked with green background.

Other high-speed passenger designated railways

According to the "Mid-to-Long Term Railway Network Plan" (revised in 2008), the MOR plans to build over 40,000 km (25,000 mi) of railway in order to expand the railway network in western China and to fill gaps in the networks of eastern and central China. Some of these new railways are being built to accommodate speeds of 200–250 km/h (120–160 mph) for both passengers and freight. These are also considered high-speed rail though they are not part of the national PDL grid or Intercity High Speed Rail.

Other high-speed rail lines

Four East-West HSR corridors and constituent lines

Four North-South HSR corridors and constituent lines

     Completed lines      Partially completed lines. Click [show] for details.

The centerpiece of the MOR's expansion into high-speed rail is a new national high-speed rail grid that is overlaid onto the existing railway network. According to the MOR's "Mid-to-Long Term Railway Network Plan" (revised in 2008), this grid is composed of eight high-speed rail corridors, four running north-south and four going east-west, and has a total of 12,000 km. Most of the new lines follow the routes of existing trunk lines and are designated for passenger travel only. They are known as passenger-designated lines (PDL). Several sections of the national grid, especially along the southeast coastal corridor, were built to link cities that had no previous rail connections. Those sections will carry a mix of passenger and freight. High-speed trains on PDLs can generally reach 300–350 km/h (190–220 mph). On mixed-use HSR lines, passenger train service can attain peak speeds of 200–250 km/h (120–160 mph). This ambitious national grid project was planned to be built by 2020, but the government's stimulus has expedited time-tables considerably for many of the lines.

National high-speed rail grid (4+4)

Some 295 stations have been built or renovated to allow high-speed trains.[130]

Following the sixth round of the "railway speed up campaign" on April 18, 2007, some 6,003 km (3,730 mi) of track could carry trains at speeds of up to 200 km/h (124 mph). Of these, 848 km (527 mi) could attain 250 km/h (155 mph). These include the Qinhuangdao-Shenyang (Qinshen) Passenger Railway, and sections of the Qingdao-Jinan (Jiaoji), Shanghai-Kunming (Hukun) between Hangzhou and Zhuzhou, Guangzhou-Shenzhen (Guangshen), Beijing–Shanghai (Jinghu), Beijing-Harbin (Jingha), Beijing-Guangzhou (Jingguang), Longhai between Zhengzhou to Xuzhou, Railways. Upgrade work continues on other lines including the Wuhan-Danyang (Handan), Hunan-Guizhou (Xianggui), and Nanjing-Nantong (Ningqi) Railways.

Upgraded railways

Most of the rail lines in the latter three categories are now under construction.[129]

  1. upgraded pre-existing rail lines that can accommodate high-speed trains,
  2. a national grid of mostly passenger dedicated HSR lines (PDLs),
  3. other newly built conventional rail lines, mostly in western China, that can carry high-speed passenger and freight trains, and
  4. certain regional "intercity" HSR lines.

China's conventional high-speed railway network is made up of four components:

Map showing projected high-speed rail network in China by 2020 and the travel time by rail from Beijing to each of the provincial capitals.

China's high-speed rail system project is ambitious.[127] It is the largest, fastest, and most technologically advanced high-speed railway system in the world.[98] The MOR plans to build 25,000 km (16,000 mi) of high-speed railways with trains reaching normal speeds of 350 km/h.[98][128] China invested $50 billion on its high-speed rail system in 2009 and the total construction cost of the high-speed rail system is $300 billion.[98] The main operator of regular high-speed train services in the People's Republic of China is China Railway High-Speed (CRH).

Track network

The spread of high-speed rail has forced domestic airlines in China to slash airfare and cancel regional flights.[126] The impact of high-speed rail on air travel is most acute for intercity trips under 500 km (310 mi).[126] By the spring of 2011, commercial airline service had been completely halted on previously popular routes such as Wuhan-Nanjing, Wuhan-Nanchang, Xi’an-Zhengzhou and Chengdu-Chongqing.[126] Flights on routes over 1,500 km (930 mi) are generally unaffected.[126] As of October 2013, high-speed rail was carrying twice as many passengers each month as the country’s airlines.[123]

Impact on airlines

Currently, China's high-speed rail service costs significantly less than similar systems in developed countries, but is considerably more expensive than conventional rail service. For the 419 km (260 mi) trip from Beijing to Jinan, HSR costs CNY185 (US$30) and takes 1 hour 32 minutes, while a conventional train costs CNY73 (US$12) and takes about 6 hours.[124] By comparison, the Acela train from Washington DC to New York City covering a slightly shorter distance of 230 mi (370 km) costs US$152–180 (Y930) and takes 2 hour 50 minutes.[125]

Cost comparisons

Overall, ridership is growing as the high-speed rail network continues to expand. High-speed rail is also becoming relatively more affordable as fares have remained stable while worker wages have grown sharply over the same period.[123]

The MOR faces a debt-repayment peak in 2014.[101] Some economists recommend further subsidies to lower fares and boost ridership and ultimately revenues.[122] Others warn that the financing side of the existing construction and operation model is unsustainable.[122] If the rail-backed loans cannot be fully repaid, they may be refinanced or the banks may seize ownership of the railways.[101] To prevent that eventuality, the MOR is trying to improve management of its rapidly growing HSR holdings.[101]

The Shijiazhuang-Taiyuan PDL lost ¥0.8 billion in its first year and is set to lose ¥0.9 billion in 2010.[101] The Southeast HSR corridor lost ¥0.377 billion in its first year beginning August 2009.[101] The Zhengzhou-Xian PDL since opening in February 2010 is expected to generate revenues of ¥0.6 billion in its first full year but must make interest payments of ¥1.1 billion. All of these losses must be covered by the operator, which is usually subsidized by local governments.[122]

Large construction debt-loads require significant revenues from rider fares, subsidies, and/or other sources of income, such as advertising, to repay. Despite impressive ridership figures, virtually every completed line has incurred losses in its first years of operation. For example, the Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway in its two full years of operation, delivered over 41 million rides. The line cost ¥20.42 billion to build, and ¥1.8 billion per annum to operate, including ¥0.6 billion in interest payments on its ¥10 billion of loan obligations.[121] The terms of the loans range from 5–10 years at interest rates of 6.3 to 6.8 percent.[121] In its first year of operation from August 1, 2008 to July 31, 2009, the line carried 18.7 million riders and generated ¥1.1 billion in revenues, which resulted in a loss of ¥0.7 billion. In the second year, ridership rose to 22.3 million and revenues improved to ¥1.4 billion, which narrowed losses somewhat to below ¥0.5 billion.[121] To break even, the line must deliver 30 million rides annually.[121] To be able to repay principal, ridership would need to exceed 40 million.[121] As of September 2010, daily ridership averaged 69,000 or an annual rate of 25.2 million.[121] The line has a capacity of delivering 100 million rides annually[122] and initial estimated repayment period of 16 years.[121]

Workers on the Shenzhen section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong High-speed Railway in May 2011
CRIC retained 56.2 percent ownership on that line. As of 2010, the CRIC-bonds are considered to be relatively safe investments because they are backed by assets (the railways) and implicitly by the government. [101] for ¥6.6 billion and a 4.537 percent stake to the public for ¥6 billion.Bank of China to the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway; in the spring of 2010, CRIC sold a 4.5 percent stake in the equity offerings CRIC has also raised some capital through [102] including ¥310 billion in the first 10 months of 2010.[101]1 trillion (US$150 billion in 2010 dollars) in debt to finance HSR construction from 2006 to 2010,¥ The MOR, through its financing arm, the China Rail Investment Corp, issued an estimated [96][86], another 40% by the bonds issued by the Ministry of Railway (MOR) and the remaining 10-20% by provincial and local institutions and state owned banks. About 40-50% of financing is provided by the national government through lending by capital intensiveChina's high-speed rail construction projects are highly

HSR construction financing

  • Improves economic productivity and competitiveness over the long term by increasing the transport capacity of railways and linking labor markets.[40][97] Moving passengers to high-speed lines frees up older railways to carry more freight, which is more profitable for railways than passengers, whose fares are subsidized.[96]
  • Stimulates the economy in the short term as HSR construction creates jobs and drives up demand for construction, steel and cement industries during the economic downturn. Work on the Beijing–Shanghai PDL mobilized 110,000 workers.[38][97][98]
  • Facilitates cross-city economic integration and promotes the growth of second-tier cities. The introduction of the high-speed railways is responsible for 59% of the increase in market potential for the secondary cities connected by bullet trains. (Market potential, a concept used by economic geographers, measures "a geographic area's access to markets for inputs and outputs.") A 10% increase in a secondary city's market potential is expected to be associated with a 4.5% increase in its average real estate price.[99]
  • Supports energy independence and environmental sustainability. Electric trains use less energy to transport people and goods on a per unit basis and can draw power from more diverse sources of energy including renewables than automobile and aircraft, which are more reliant on imported petroleum.[96]
  • Develop an indigenous high-speed rail equipment industry. The expansion into HSR is also developing China into a leading source of high-speed rail building technology.[38] Chinese train-makers have absorbed imported technologies quickly, localized production processes, and even begun to compete with foreign suppliers in the export market. Six years after receiving Kawasaki's license to produce Shinkansen E2, CSC Sifang can produce the CRH2A without Japanese input, and Kawasaki has ended cooperation with Sifang on high-speed rail.[100]

Critics both in China and abroad have questioned the necessity of having an expensive high-speed rail system in a largely developing country, where most workers cannot afford to pay a premium for faster travel.[39][40] The government has justified the expensive undertaking as promoting a number of policy objectives. HSR provides fast, reliable and comfortable means of transporting large numbers of travelers in a densely populated country over long distances,[96] which:

Policy justifications

A prefabricated section of the elevated track being installed on the Harbin-Dalian High Speed Railway in October 2010
Over 85% of track on the Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway is laid on viaducts. Chinese builders use elevated lines to keep high-speed rail tracks straight and level over uneven terrain, and to save on land acquisition costs.
The Dashengguan Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing (shown under construction in 2009) is a six-track railway bridge for the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu Railway, and Nanjing Subway.

China's high-speed rail expansion is entirely managed, planned and financed by the government.

Current HSR expansion

On December 28, 2013, the total length of high-speed rail tracks nationally topped 10,000 km (6,200 mi) with the opening of the Xiamen–Shenzhen, Xian–Baoji, Chongqing−Lichuan high-speed railways as well as intercity lines in Hubei and Guangxi.[95]

By early 2012, the Chinese government renewed investments in high-speed rail to rejuvenate the slowing economy.[89] Premier Wen Jiabao visited train manufacturers and gave a vote of confidence in the industry.[89] Over the course of the year, the MOR’s budget rose from $64.3 billion to $96.5 billion.[89] Five new lines totaling 2,563 km (1,593 mi) in length entered operation between June 30 and December 31, including the Beijing-Wuhan section of the Beijing-Guangzhou line.[4] By the end of 2012, the total length of high-speed rail tracks had reached 9,300 km (5,800 mi), and ridership had exceeded levels prior to the Wenzhou crash.[90][91] China's 1,580 high-speed trains were transporting 1.33 million passengers daily, about 25.7% of the overall passenger traffic.[4] The Beijing–Tianjin, Shanghai–Nanjing, Beijing–Shanghai and Shanghai-Hangzhou lines reported breaking even financially[6][92][93][94] The Shanghai-Nanjing line even reported to be operationally profitable,[93] operating with a 380 million yuan net profit.[92][93] However the system as a whole is still losing money and concerns about corruption, safety and high ticket prices persist.[94]

The Guiyang–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway under construction in Yangshuo, Guangxi in August 2013.


Another project postponed or cancelled altogether was the proposed Chongqing-Xi'an High-Speed Railway. As it was announced in September 2012, it won't be included into the national railway construction plans, because travel between the two cities can be efficiently enough accomplished by using two other railways that are in the plans, namely the Lanzhou-Chongqing and Xi'an-Chengdu lines, which will cross at Guangyuan in north-eastern Sichuan.[88]

To ease the credit shortage facing rail construction, the Ministry of Finance announced tax cuts to interest earned on rail construction financing bonds and the State Council ordered state banks to renew lending to rail projects.[82] In late October and November 2011, the MOR raised RMB 250 billion in fresh financing and construction resumed on several lines including the Tianjin-Baoding, Xiamen-Shenzhen and Shanghai-Kunming.[87]

In the first half of 2011, the MOR as a whole made a profit of ¥4.29 billion and carried a total debt burden of ¥2.09 trillion, equal to about 5% of China’s GDP.[83][84] Earnings from the more profitable freight lines helped to off-set losses by high-speed rail lines. As of years ending 2008, 2009 and 2010, the MOR's debt-to-asset ratio was respectively, 46.81%, 53.06% and 57.44%,[85] and reached 58.58% by mid-year 2011.[86] As of October 12, 2011, the MOR had issued ¥160 billion of debt for the year.[84] But in the late summer, state banks began to cut back on lending to rail construction projects, which reduced funding for existing railway projects. An investigation of 23 railway construction companies in August 2011 revealed that 70% of existing projects had been slowed or halted mainly due to shortage of funding.[86] Affected lines included Xiamen-Shenzhen, Nanning-Guangzhou, Guiyang-Guangzhou, Shijazhuang-Wuhan, Tianjin-Baoding and Shanghai-Kunming high-speed rail lines.[82][83] By October, work had halted on the construction of 10,000 km (6,200 mi) of track.[82] New projects were put on hold and completion dates for existing projects, including the Tianjin-Baoding, Harbin-Jiamusi, Zhengzhou-Xuzhou and Hainan Ring (West), were pushed back.[86] As of October 2011, the MOR was reportedly concentrating remaining resources on fewer high-speed rail lines and shifting emphasis to more economically viable coal transporting heavy rail.[84]

Slowdown in financing and construction

Following the deadly crash, the Chinese government suspended new railway project approvals and launch safety checks on existing equipment.[74][75] A commission was formed to investigate the accident with a directive to report its findings in September 2011.[76] On August 10, 2011, the Chinese government announced that it was suspending approvals of any new high-speed rail lines pending the outcome of the investigation.[77][78] The Minister of Railways announced further cuts in the speed of Chinese high-speed trains, with the speed of the second-tier 'D' trains reduced from 250 km/h (155 mph) to 200 km/h (124 mph).[79] The speed of the remaining 350 km/h (217 mph) trains between Shanghai and Hangzhou was reduced to 300 km/h (186 mph) as of August 28, 2011.[80] To stimulate ridership, on August 16, 2011 ticket prices on high-speed trains were reduced by five percent.[81] From July to September, high-speed rail ridership in China fell by nearly 30 million to 151 million trips.[82]

On July 23, 2011, two high-speed trains collided on the Ningbo–Taizhou–Wenzhou Railway in Lucheng District of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province.[60][61][62] The accident occurred when one train traveling near Wenzhou was struck by lightning, lost power and stalled. Signals malfunctioned, causing another train to rear-end the stalled train.[61][63][64][65][66] Several carriages derailed.[67] State-run Chinese media confirmed 40 deaths, and at least 192 people hospitalised, including 12 who were severely injured.[68][69][70] The Wenzhou train accident and the lack of accountability by railway officials caused a public uproar and heightened concerns about the safety and management of China's high-speed rail system.[71][72] Quality and safety concerns also affected plans to export cheaper high-speed train technology to other countries.[73]

Wenzhou accident

In April 2011, the new Minister of Railways Sheng Guangzu said that due to corruption, safety may have been compromised on some construction projects and completion dates may have to be pushed back.[46] Sheng announced that all trains in the high-speed rail network would operate at a maximum speed of 300 km/h (186 mph) beginning on July 1, 2011.[9][50][51] This was in response to concerns over safety, low ridership due to high ticket prices,[52] and high energy usage.[49] On June 13, 2011, the MOR clarified in a press conference that the speed reduction was not due to safety concerns but to offer more affordable tickets for trains at 250 km/h (155 mph) and increase ridership. Higher-speed train travel uses greater energy and imposes more wear on expensive machinery. Railway officials lowered the top speed of trains on most lines that were running at 350 km/h (217 mph) to 300 km/h (186 mph). Trains on the Beijing-Tianjin high-speed line and a few other inter-city lines remained at 350 km/h.[53] In May 2011, China's Environmental Protection Ministry ordered the halting of construction and operation of two high-speed lines that failed to pass environmental impact tests.[54][55] In June, the MOR maintained that high-speed rail construction was not slowing down.[56] The CRH380A trainsets on the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway could reach a top operational speed of 380 km/h (240 mph) but were limited to 300 km/h.[10][11] Under political and public pressure, the National Audit Office (NAO) carried out an extensive investigation into the building quality of all high-speed rail lines. As of March 2011, no major quality defects had been found in the system.[57] Foreign manufacturers involved in Shanghai-Beijing high-speed link reported that their contracts call for maximum operational speed of 300 km/h (186 mph).[58] From July 20, 2011, the frequency of train service from Jinan to Beijing and Tianjin was reduced due to low occupancy, which renewed concerns about demand and profitability for high-speed services.[59] Service failures in the first month of operation drove passengers back to pre-existing slower rail service and air travel; airline ticket prices rebounded due to reduced competition.

After the political shake-up, concerns about HSR safety, high ticket prices, financial sustainability and environmental impact received greater scrutiny in the Chinese press.[9][49]

Then-Railway Minister Liu Zhijun hosting Nancy Pelosi and Edward Markey, members of the United States Congress, in Beijing in 2009.

In February 2011, Railway Minister Liu Zhijun, a key proponent of HSR expansion in China, was removed from office on charges of corruption. The Economist estimates Liu accepted ¥1 billion of bribes ($152 million) in connection with railway construction projects.[46] Investigators found evidence that another ¥187 million ($28.5 million) was misappropriated from the $33 billion Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway in 2010.[47] Another top official in the Railways Ministry, Zhang Shuguang, was also sacked for corruption.[46] Zhang was estimated to have misappropriated to his personal overseas accounts the equivalent of $2.8 billion.[48]

Corruption and concerns

By January 2011, China had the world’s longest high-speed rail network with about 8,358 km (5,193 mi)[43] of routes capable for at least 200 km/h (124 mph) running in service including 2,197 km (1,365 mi) of rail lines with top speeds of 350 km/h (217 mph).[44] The MOR reportedly committed investment of ¥709.1 billion (US$107.9 billion) in railway construction in 2010 and would invest ¥700 billion (US$106 billion) in 2011 on 70 railway projects, including 15 high-speed rail projects. Some 4,715 kilometres (2,930 mi) of new high-speed railways would be opened, and by the end of 2011, China would have 13,073 kilometres (8,123 mi) of railways capable of carrying trains at speeds of at least 200 km/h (124 mph).[45]

The Wuhan–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway (Wuguang PDL), which opened on December 26, 2009, was the country’s first cross-regional high-speed rail line. With a total length of 968 km (601 mi) and capacity to accommodate trains traveling at 350 km/h (217 mph), the Wuguang PDL set a world record for the fastest commercial train service with average trip speed of 312.5 km/h (194.2 mph). Train travel between central and southern China’s largest cities, Wuhan and Guangzhou, was reduced to just over three hours. On October 26, 2010, China opened its 15th high-speed rail, the Shanghai–Hangzhou line, and unveiled the CRH380A trainset manufactured by CSR Sifang started regular service. The Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the second major cross-regional line, opened on June 2011 and was the first line designed with a top speed of 380 km/h (236 mph) in commercial service.[41][42]

CRH3 trains on the Wuhan–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway in February 2010. The line, which opened in December 2009, reduced travel time by rail between Wuhan and Guangzhou from 10.5 hours to just over three hours.

As of 2007, the Qinhuangdao-Shenyang High-Speed Railway, which carried trains at top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph) along the Liaoxi Corridor in the Northeast, was the only passenger-dedicated HSR line (PDL) in China, but that would soon change as the country embarked on a high-speed railway construction boom. The MOR's “Mid-to-Long Term Railway Network Plan”, revised in 2008, called for the building of a national high-speed rail grid composed of 4 north-south corridors and 4 east-west corridors, which together with upgraded existing lines, would total 12,000 km (7,456 mi) in length. The earliest PDLs built were sections of the corridors that connected large cities in the same region. On April 19, 2008, Hefei–Nanjing PDL in the East opened with a top-speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). On August 1, 2008, the Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway opened in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics. This line between northern China’s two largest cities, was the first in the country to accommodate commercial trains with top speed of 350 km/h (217 mph) and featured the CRH2C and CRH3C train sets.

After committing to conventional-track high-speed rail in 2006, the state embarked on an ambitious campaign to build passenger-dedicated high-speed rail lines, which accounted for a large part of the government's growing budget for rail construction. Total investment in new rail lines grew from $14 billion in 2004 to $22.7 and $26.2 billion in 2006 and 2007.[38] In response to the global economic recession, the government accelerated the pace of HSR expansion to stimulate economic growth. Total investments in new rail lines including HSR reached $49.4 billion in 2008 and $88 billion in 2009.[38] In all, the state planned to spend $300 billion to build a 25,000 km (16,000 mi) HSR network by 2020.[39][40]

Early dedicated high-speed rail lines

On October 19, 2010, the MOR announced the beginning of research and development of "super-speed" railway technology, which would increase the maximum speed of trains to over 500 km/h (311 mph).[37]

Construction of the high-speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai, the world's first high-speed rail with a designed speed of 380 km/h (236 mph), began on April 18, 2008. In the same year, the Ministry of Science and the MOR agreed to a joint action plan for the indigenous innovation of high-speed trains in China. The MOR then launched the CRH1-350 (Bombardier and BST, designated as CRH380D/DL), CRH2-350 (CSR, designated as CRH380A/AL), and CRH3-350 (CNR and Siemens, designated as CRH380B/BL & CRH380CL), to develop a new generation of CRH trains with a top operation speed of 380 km/h. A total of 400 new generation trains were ordered. The CRH380A, the first indigenous high-speed train of the CRH series, entered service on the Shanghai-Hangzhou High-Speed Railway on October 26, 2010.[36]

In 2007, travel time from Beijing to Shanghai was about 10 hours at a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) in the upgrade Beijing–Shanghai Railway. To increase transport capacity, the MOR ordered 70 16-car trainsets from CSR Sifang and BST, including 10 sets of CRH1B and 20 sets of CRH2B seating trains, 20 sets of CRH1E and 20 sets of CRH2E sleeper trains.

Between June and September 2005, the MOR launched bidding for high-speed trains with a top speed of 350 km/h (217 mph), as most of the main high-speed rail lines were designed for top speeds of 350 km/h or higher. Along with CRH3C, produced by Siemens and CNR Tangshan, CSR Sifang bid 60 sets of CRH2C.

Kawasaki’s cooperation with CSR did not last as long. Within two years of cooperation with Kawasaki to produce 60 CRH2A sets, CSR began in 2008 to build CRH2B, CRH2C and CRH2E models at its Sifang plant independently without assistance from Kawasaki.[32] According to CSR president Zhang Chenghong, CSR "made the bold move of forming a systemic development platform for high-speed locomotives and further upgrading its design and manufacturing technology. Later, we began to independently develop high-speed CRH trains with a maximum velocity of 300–350 kilometers per hour, which eventually rolled off the production line in December 2007."[33] Since then, CSR has ended its cooperation with Kawasaki.[34] Kawasaki challenged China's high-speed rail project for patent theft, but backed off the effort.[35]

For foreign train-makers, technology transfer is an important part of gaining market access in China. Bombardier, the first foreign train-maker to form a joint venture in China, has been sharing technology for the manufacture of railway passenger cars and rolling stock since 1998. Zhang Jianwei, President and Chief Country Representative of Bombardier China, stated that in a 2009 interview, “Whatever technology Bombardier has, whatever the China market needs, there is no need to ask. Bombardier transfers advanced and mature technology to China, which we do not treat as an experimental market.”[31] Unlike other series which have imported prototypes, all CRH1 trains have been assembled at Bombardier’s joint-venture with CSR, Bombardier Sifang in Qingdao.

Examples of technology transfer include Mitsubishi Electric’s MT205 traction motor and ATM9 transformer to CSR Zhuzhou Electric, Hitachi’s YJ92A traction motor and Alstom’s YJ87A Traction motor to CNR Yongji Electric, Siemens’ TSG series pantograph to Zhuzhou Gofront Electric. Most of the components of the CRH trains manufactured by Chinese companies were from local suppliers, with only a few parts imported.

Second generation CRH train sets
CRH380AL in Dec. 2011
CRH380BL in Jan. 2012.
CRH380CL in May 2011
The CRH380AL train set, shown above at the Beijing South Railway Station, set a record speed of 486.1 km/h (302.0 mph) on Dec. 3, 2010. The record was broken by a CRH380BL train set on Jan. 9, 2011, which reached 487.3 km/h (302.8 mph).

Achieving indigenous high-speed rail technology has been a major goal of Chinese state planners. Chinese train-makers, after receiving transferred foreign technology, have been able to achieve a considerable degree of self-sufficiency in making the next generation of high-speed trains by developing indigenous capability to produce key parts and improvising upon foreign designs.

Technology transfer

The following year, Siemens reshuffled its bidding team, lowered prices, joined the bidding for 350 km/h (217 mph) trains and won a 60-train set order.[24] It supplied the technology for the CRH3C, based on the ICE3 (class 403) design, to CNR's Tangshan Railway Vehicle Co. Ltd. The transferred technology includes assembly, body, bogie, traction current transforming, traction transformers, traction motors, traction control, brake systems, and train control networks.

In June 2004, the MOR solicited bids to make 200 high-speed train sets that can run 200 km/h (124 mph).[24] Alstom of France, Siemens of Germany, Bombardier Transportation based in Germany and a Japanese consortium led by Kawasaki all submitted bids. With the exception of Siemens which refused to lower its demand of RMB(¥) 350 million per train set and €390 million for the technology transfer, the other three were all awarded portions of the contract.[24] All had to adapt their HSR train-sets to China's own common standard and assemble units through local joint ventures (JV) or cooperate with Chinese manufacturers. Bombardier, through its JV with CSR's Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co (CSR Sifang), Bombardier Sifang (Qingdao) Transportation Ltd (BST). won an order for 40 eight-car train sets based on Bombardier's Regina design.[27] These trains, designated CRH1A, were delivered in 2006. Kawasaki won an order for 60 train sets based on its E2 Series Shinkansen for ¥9.3 billion.[28] Of the 60 train sets, three were directly delivered from Nagoya, Japan, six were kits assembled at CSR Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock, and the remaining 51 were made in China using transferred technology with domestic and imported parts.[29] They are known as CRH2A. Alstom also won an order for 60 train sets based on the New Pendolino developed by Alstom-Ferroviaria in Italy. The order had a similar delivery structure with three shipped directly from Savigliano along with six kits assembled by CNR's Changchun Railway Vehicles, and the rest locally made with transferred technology and some imported parts.[30] Trains with Alstom technology carry the CRH5 designation.

The MOR delayed the decision, broadened the bidding and adopted a diversified approach to adopting foreign high-speed train technology. [26]

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