China has recently launched the world’s longest high-speed rail line, covering about 1,200 miles, with trains traveling 186 miles an hour from Beijing to Guangzhou, the main metropolis in southeastern China. The national network has created jobs for 100,000 workers per line and reduced both air pollution and the demand for imported diesel fuel. Zintro experts discuss whether this homegrown technology will have the same positive international reputation for safety as China’s aviation system.
As flight operations engineer, Jeremiah Alubokho indicates, aviation alone has not been sufficient to satisfy over a billion Chinese citizens, most of who are low-income earners and this train service is meant to break records. “For China’s case, the airline has been treated by the government as both an impression of economic success and its mark on the international travel arena. Compared to the airline, this rail venture will enable mass transport of people at a relatively high speed bearing in mind the lower cost on the traveler,” he explains. “If this will reduce the amount of vehicle movements on the road, it will also contribute to fewer emissions and open up Chinese hinterland.” Moreover, Alubokho thinks it is necessary to have a commitment from all stakeholders and investment in research and expertise to make comparable to the airline in terms of safety. “There has been many train disasters in China over the years, which were climaxed on 23 July 2011, when two high-speed trains travelling on the Yongtaiwen railway line collided on a viaduct in the suburbs of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, China,” he adds. “It is not possible to rule out a disaster bearing in mind that the longest rail also exposes the train to the longest risk over time.”
Donald Bolt, an expert in rail transportation, shares his experience, while he traveled on sections of this line as they were opened. “I work for CRM and we provide the majority of all materials to build this railway, including track and vehicles. I can compare this technology to the one used by Alstom, where I was also the Chief Engineer for North America. The service is excellent and the performance of the vehicles is top quality,” says Bolt. “I also have had experience in working for UTM in Qingdao where the doors, interiors, bathrooms, and seats were manufactured for this train and most high-speed rail vehicles in China and Europe. I felt extremely safe on his train. In addition the terminals, which were built for the railway line are better than any airport in the world.”
According to Willem-Jan Zwanenburg, an expert in high-speed rail and rail asset management, construction and operational experience of the new line proves the feasibility of other long-distance high-speed rail connections between major metropolis in the rest of the world. “The opening of the latest and longest high-speed rail line between Beijing and Guangzhou puts China really on par with more established high-speed rail countries Japan, France, Germany, Spain or Italy,” notes Zwanenburg. “The consequent utilization of state-of-the-art materials and technologies in infrastructure and rolling stock technology allows for even higher speeds or increased capacity without further investment necessary.” On the other hand, Zwanenburg mentions that it is still challenging to guarantee good reliability, availability and safety on the short, mid and long-term especially when the first tear and wear effects start to show. “Another challenge lies in the selling possibility of Chinese technology in areas where more strict environmental, technical or legal issues might apply,” adds Zwanenburg.
By Idil Kan
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