High-speed rail in China and its impact on cars

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CRH380A 300x200 High speed rail in China and its impact on cars

The world's fastest production train: 486 km/h (302 mph)

China is about to start commercial operation of their newest high-speed rail line, the Beijing-Shanghai line. The 1318 km (819 mi) long line is the world’s longest and will feature Chinese-made rolling stock. China Railways’ CRH380A is capable of zipping through at speeds of up to 380 km/h (236 mph), which would make this also the world’s fastest line. The maximum speed is currently at 300km/h (186 mph), but is set to increase to 350km/h in a near future.

The Beijing-Shanghai line alone is comparable (in length) to the entire German HSR network, but is just part of Beijing’s plan to create a network that will serve 250 cities and span 30,000km (18,600 mi) by 2020. China has invested some $350 billion on the network, which has now some 5,500km of routes (plus upgraded sections of older railways, which would bring the total to over 8,000km). Operation of the first line began four years ago (2007).

China already has a huge highway network, the second largest in the world and expanding just as fast as the HSR network – so why build a redundant system? There is a lot of criticism, like high ticket prices. However, what many are overlooking is the potential to keep people from buying and using their cars. Besides carrying passengers, with new high speed railways, freight traffic can also use what were passenger lines, taking trucks off the road. China’s freight transport by rail is still very inefficient if compared to the one in America.

china hsr 2020 300x220 High speed rail in China and its impact on cars

China plans to have some 30,000 km (18,600 mi) of high speed rail by 2020

Estimates on car ownership in China vary, but they range from 20 to 120 cars per 1000 people. The US number is around 750. With a population 4x bigger, imagine how disastrous it would be if car ownership in China came anywhere close to American levels. In the U.S., high-speed rail will most likely be a failure with the exception of (perhaps) very few lines because of the extreme reliance on automobiles.

U.S. cities already invest more in their mass transit systems than on their highways, yet they still serve less than 5% of the population. Taking people off their cars in the U.S. won’t be easy; it is almost a necessity to own a car in America. China has the chance to stop this from happening by building a better public transportation infrastructure before it is too late. Metros in urban areas and the national HSR network will be important in reducing traffic congestion in China, which is already at alarming levels in many of the larger cities.

High speed trains are faster than cars, more practical than airplanes and more efficient than both. What’s not to like?

WARNING: The origin of the technology behind the CRH380A does not pertain to the discussion and any comments regarding it will be seen as inflammatory and deleted.

About the author  ⁄ Nathan Y

Nathan, also known as "Analyst" is a Chinese car enthusiast who has been following the development of the Chinese car industry since 2005.

71 Comments

  • Analyst Author
    July 7, 2011

    BTW, bidding on the Brazilian HSR got postponed yet again. They will now revise the conditions to make them more flexible to see if that will attract more bidders.

    And also, CSR is set to supply technology to the Haramain HSR project in Saudi Arabia. So, way ahead of you, KTX :)

  • CCT
    July 7, 2011

    This article and subsequent comments seemed to have formed the backbone for a recent article on China HSR system for a Malaysian Newspaper

  • I __ H a t e __ C h i n a
    July 8, 2011

    @ Analyst

    > CSR is set to supply technology to the Haramain HSR project in Saudi Arabia.

    CSR did not bid on Haramain HSR project(Because the technical requirement of operating in extreme heat and sand storm was too tough). Only Alstom and Talgo bid.

    Chinese contribution in Haramain HSR is the civil ground work(10% of total budget). track laying, power line, signaling, train stations, and rolling stocks are all from European supplies.

  • I __ H a t e __ C h i n a
    July 8, 2011

    @ Analyst

    > “China’s high-speed rail better than Shinkansen”

    We all know this isn’t true.

    > “Wang said the intellectual property rights of China’s high-speed railways are undoubtedly mastered by China itself.

    The only pure Chinese bullet train design was China Star; and you know where that one went.

    > According to the MOR, more than 1,900 items of technologies used in China’s high-speed railway have been granted patents while the patent applications of 481 other technologies are still under review.“

    Irrelevant. Chinese patents have zero consideration for patent evaluation in other countries.

  • Analyst Author
    July 9, 2011

    “Chinese contribution in Haramain HSR is the civil ground work”

    That’s true for Phase I of the project (CSR is not in it, it’s CRCC), but CSR will be supplying rolling stock for Phase II if everything goes according to plan.

  • Analyst Author
    July 9, 2011

    “We all know this isn’t true.”

    Based on what? There is probably only one way to objectively compare the two: speed. CRH > Shinkansen.

    “Irrelevant. Chinese patents have zero consideration for patent evaluation in other countries”

    I don’t think he was referring to Chinese patents.

  • I __ H a t e __ C h i n a
    July 9, 2011

    @ Analyst

    > but CSR will be supplying rolling stock for Phase II if everything goes according to plan.

    I already told you that CSR did not bid for Phase II.

  • Analyst
    July 9, 2011

    - I accidentally edited your comment instead of posting a reply -

    “Not at all”

    OK, so dig up any of those numbers to compare.
    Obviously you have to take in consideration the fact that a faster train will be noisier, less smooth and consume significantly more energy.
    But I see no noticeable difference between the Shinkansen and CRH in smoothness of ride and quietness while operating at similar speeds.

    “The patents mentioned in the article are patents applied in China.”

    Says who?

    I’ll also take the time to reply to your posts at the WSJ:

    “It doesn’t change the fact that CRH380A are banned from export, and Kawasaki will rigorously enforce this export ban where they could, namely in the US and UK.”

    No such ban exists. It doesn’t matter how many times you repeat this false piece of information, it won’t make it true.

    And Kawasaki really should stop running their mouths. If anyone has a remote chance of claiming IPR over the CRH380A it’s Siemens, not Kawasaki. Yet you don’t see them yapping, why is that?

  • I __ H a t e __ C h i n a
    July 9, 2011

    @ Analyst

    > Obviously you have to take in consideration the fact that a faster train will be noisier, less smooth and consume significantly more energy.

    We are talking about those qualities at same speed(300 km/hr).

    > Says who?

    The article says so.

    > No such ban exists.

    It does. Chinese are explicitly prohibited from utilizing transferred Shinkansen technology outside of China in the license transfer agreement. That constitutes a ban. This fact was reiterated by Kawasaki chairman.

    > It doesn’t matter how many times you repeat this false piece of information, it won’t make it true.

    It was always true.

    > And Kawasaki really should stop running their mouths.

    Why should they? They are the victim of IPR theft.

    > If anyone has a remote chance of claiming IPR over the CRH380A it’s Siemens, not Kawasaki.

    Why do you get that idea? Because the bogie is a replica of Velaro?

    > Yet you don’t see them yapping, why is that?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-18/basf-siemens-chiefs-complain-about-china-to-wen-financial-times-reports.html

    Siemens CEO protested to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in person.

  • Analyst Author
    July 9, 2011

    “We are talking about those qualities at same speed(300 km/hr).”

    Where’s the data? Oh, that’s right, you don’t have any (as usual).
    I gave you a link where it is shown that the CRH380A is measurably better than the Japanese-based CRH2, with 15% less drag and a much lower derailment coefficient.

    “The article says so.”

    No, it doesn’t.

    “Chinese are explicitly prohibited from utilizing transferred Shinkansen technology outside of China in the license transfer agreement.”

    Thank you, Captain Obvious. I find your choice of words (ie: “ban”) either ignorant or deliberate trolling. The Chinese are well aware of that fact; that’s why the technology to be exported will not contain Kawasaki IPR.
    It doesn’t matter what Kawasaki says; *I* could claim the efSET contains *my* IPR and is thus prohibited from export. Until they can prove the CRH trains use their technology, it’s a meaningless threat.

    “Siemens CEO protested to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in person.”

    No, he did not. Read what it says:

    “Loescher [Siemens CEO] called for China to quickly remove trade and investment restrictions in the automotive, financial services and other industries.”

    The other guy who “complained that foreign companies were being forced to give away business and technology to Chinese companies in exchange for market access” is BASF’s CEO.
    This is a perfectly valid strategy. If you don’t want to give away business and technology, don’t do business in China. It’s as simple as that. It’s not like they are tricked into doing so. They do it well aware of the conditions.

  • I __ H a t e __ C h i n a
    July 9, 2011

    @Analyst

    > I gave you a link where it is shown that the CRH380A is measurably better than the Japanese-based CRH2, with 15% less drag and a much lower derailment coefficient.

    And why compare it to CRH2 if CRH380A had nothing to do with CRH2?

    > I find your choice of words (ie: “ban”) either ignorant or deliberate trolling.

    How else do you describe a ban? “Not permitted”? “Not allowed”? A ban is a ban.

    > The Chinese are well aware of that fact

    No they are not. If they were, then we wouldn’t be having this discission.

    > that’s why the technology to be exported will not contain Kawasaki IPR.

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/business/2011-07/08/content_12864015.htm

    According to CSR, CRH380A cost 10.8 million euros to develop. Now, what can you develop with 10.8 million Euros from scratch? Nothing! You can’t even engineer a golf cart with that sum of money.

    Are you still convinced that CRH380A is a fully indigenous train that contains no Kawasaki IP? Or is it a Kawasaki CRH2 with a nosejob?

    > It doesn’t matter what Kawasaki says

    People outside of China take Kawasaki’s word over CSR’s anyday.

    > Until they can prove the CRH trains use their technology, it’s a meaningless threat.

    Which isn’t hard to prove.

    > This is a perfectly valid strategy.

    It didn’t work for Chinese auto industry(Chinese industry still unable to come out with models that could compete with foreign models), so why would it work for train industry?

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