BYD Launches Budget Monorail in Bid to Tap Mass-Transit Market
(Beijing) — Warren Buffet-backed electric-vehicle maker BYD Co. launched its first electric monorail system in a bid to tap into China's multitrillion-yuan mass-transit market, currently dominated by state-owned companies.
Dubbed "SkyRail," the monorail system debuted at BYD's global headquarters in Shenzhen on Thursday. Both the tracks and electric trains used in the 4.4-kilometer-long showcase rail line were developed by BYD, said Ren Lin, head of the light-rail transportation research center.
Known for its electric automobiles and rechargeable batteries, BYD is looking to expand into public transportation to make railways its fourth core business sector after IT, automobiles and new energy. Elevated single-track rail lines with trains running at speeds of up to 80 kph will be used in smaller, less-developed cities and to connect heavy traffic routes and tourist attractions in large cities, the company said.
"As a rail transport option with relatively smaller passenger capacity, SkyRail can complement existing public transportation networks to create a layered transportation system encompassing underground, roadway and elevated elements," BYD President and Chairman Wang Chuanfu said at the launch ceremony.
BYD signed a contract with the government of Shantou, Guangdong province, on Wednesday to build a 250-km-long monorail network, the company said.
Monorail systems require only a sixth of the capital expenditure of a subway system and are cheaper to maintain, the company said, adding that SkyRail will have a delivery capacity of 10,000 to 30,000 passengers one way per hour.
The central government has been urging regional governments to develop new railway networks in recent months. Transport Minister Yang Chuantang said in March that the country aims to increase the total length of light-rail transit systems in cities from the current 3,300 km to about 6,000 km by 2020.
To date, Chongqing is the only Chinese city that currently operates a monorail service after a plan for 33-km-long line in east Beijing was shelved in 2014 due to public pressure. Buses and subways remain the most common forms of public transportation across the country.
BYD said the launch of the monorail system marked the company's entry into China's multitrillion-yuan mass-transit market. However, the foray into electric monorails may face a pushback from China Railway Rolling Stock Corp. Ltd., the country's largest train-equipment manufacturer, whose subsidiaries build most of the country's subways and trains. The company completed a successful test run of its first monorail train in May.
"The CRRC is like a trunk, and we're branches," Ren said. "The CRRC is the backbone of the country's transportation, while we mostly target small and midsize cities."
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