Caixin
Aug 16, 2016 06:17 PM

First China Made Bullet Train Makes Maiden Trip

(Beijing) – The first-ever "made in China" bullet train completed its inaugural trip on August 15, pushing the country's train makers one step closer to exporting indigenous rail technology.

The passenger train, built according to a technology standard developed and patented in China, made its debut in Dalian, a port city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, and will run daily to the provincial capital Shenyang, covering a distance of 380 km in about two hours. The train could reach a maximum speed of 350 kmph, comparable to the fastest trains in operation in Europe.

For years, China has been using technology from foreign train makers including Alstom SA of France, Siemens AG of Germany, Bombardier Inc. of Canada and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. of Japan to develop high-speed trains. Chinese train manufacturers relied on intellectual property rights licenses to access technology from these companies and had to form joint ventures and import parts to co-produce train sets based on foreign designs.

As a result, high-speed trains used in China's vast domestic rail network were built according to different technology standards that are not compatible with each other, and Chinese rail operators have struggled with various control systems and maintenance requirements.

The homegrown standard, known as China Electric Multiple Units, is safer than its foreign counterparts, Zhou Li, head of the technology department at China Railway Corp. – the country's railway operator – told official Xinhua News Agency. For example, when a train's sensor detects that there is a safety hazard, it will alarm the conductor and automatically slow down or stop operation.

The new standard was jointly developed by the CRC, rail equipment manufacturer China Railway Rolling Stock Corp. Ltd. and research institute China Academy of Railway Sciences. Research on the country's indigenous train technology started in 2012 and the first train rolled off the production line in June 2015.

"It will become the main train model exported by China in future," Zhou said.

In an effort to export the country's high-speed rail technology, Chinese companies have clinched two overseas deals in recent years. A high-speed line between Indonesia's capital Jakarta and the country's third-largest city Bandung was started in January. Russia also signed contracts with a Chinese consortium to design and build a 770-kilometer line between the Russian cities of Moscow and Kazan last year.

Chinese companies are also bidding for a 330-kilometer high-speed rail line linking Singapore and Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur. It is not clear whether the homegrown trains will be used in these projects.

However, several overseas bids by Chinese companies have been scuttled, mainly due to red tape. American railway developer XpressWest called off a deal to develop a 298-kilometer, US$ 12.5 billion railroad linking Los Angeles and Las Vegas in June after the Chinese consortium failed to get relevant government approvals. A 2014 agreement between China and Mexico for high-speed line was derailed after rivals complained of discrepancies in the bidding process.

Contact reporter Chen Na (nachen@caixin.com); editor Poornima Weerasekara (Poornima@caixin.com)

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