by Xinhua writers Yang Rongrong & Yang Jianxiang
BEIJING, July 3 (Xinhua) -- A 301-km high-speed (HS) railway connecting Shanghai and Nanjing in east central China began its inaugural run on July 1. With a maximum speed of 350 kilometers per hour (km/h), the CRH train shortens the express trip time between the two terminuses from a little more than two hours to 73 minutes.
China's development of HS rails was late but fast. Its first HS railway, the 120-km Beijing-Tianjin inter-city line, was opened for service on August 1, 2008. By the end of 2009, total HS operating length had reached 6,552 kilometers. The Ministry of Railways (MOR) says an additional 10,000 kilometers of HS rails are now under construction.
Officials believe the HS railway is going to alter the picture of world transportation. Chinese experts say the country plans to make its contribution towards this global trend.
China has previously said it is prepared to share its expertise in HS railways with the world. "We are committed to an 'out-going' strategy. It means not only the export of products and service, but also technology and brand," said Chen Juemin, director-general of MOR Department for International Cooperation, during a recent interview.
China's achievements in HS rail have impressed the world. Since 2003 it has signed about 30 agreements or memorandums of understanding with other countries on cooperation in railway development. Chinese rail firms were invited to tender or participate in projects abroad. Last year, MOR received over 100 groups of foreign political leaders and government representatives.
"My job requires going abroad from time to time. Now I just don't have the time," said Chen Juemin.
World leading technology
Experts say China's HS technology is both comprehensive and mature. Although the current technology does not apply to all conditions, China has laid long, seamless rails for HS trains on a great variety of terrain -- on or above lowland plains and atop plateaus, above and under water, and inside tunnels deep in mountains.
HS trains running on the 1,068-km Wuhan-Guangzhou railway pass each other safely at a speed of 350 km/h in the tunnel. And the high-speed movement has little affect upon the surface of water contained in a cup sitting on the small table of a train carriage.
The maximum speed of the CRH3 train is 394.2 km/h and it normally runs at 350 km/h. Both figures were obtained from test runs of trains in actual use, instead of vehicles specially built for experimental purposes, as some countries did. "China's HS trains are safe and comfortable," said He Huawu, MOR chief engineer.
The advancement of China's HS technology was marvelous and indisputable, Chen Juemin said, "It's an advantage of the late-comer. We are late, but we achieve big."
The Chinese technology combined original independent innovation and innovation in partnership with other countries or through technological transfers. MOR statistics show that between 2003 and 2009 China's railway sector submitted 946 items for patent protection. The Chinese government has been very careful about the issue of intellectual property rights in the rail sector. "So far, there is no dispute on that," Chen Juemin said.
Rapid development at home
According to MOR Vice Minister Wang Zhiguo, by the end of 2012 China will have in place 13,000 kilometers of HS rail with a total railway mileage of 110,000 kilometers. A HS rail network featuring four horizontal and four vertical lines will take shape by then.
Further, construction funding is not a big concern. The HS rail projects enjoy strong government support. Public budget money, corporate financing and private investments combine to cover the huge initial expenses. Official statistics show the debt rate of the entire railway sector was 52% in 2009, with which the MOR is confident it can manage .
Opened in December last year, the Wuhan-Guangzhou HS railway had 33 train services scheduled daily, with an average occupancy rate of 84%. The busiest day recorded 82,200 passengers. The new train was welcomed for being fast, safe and comfortable.
The operation of the Beijing-Tianjin inter-city railway, the first HS rail in China that allows a normal running speed of 250 km/h, showed its number of passengers fell below expectations. The authority said that was because connections with other railways and subways in the two connecting cities had yet to be completed.
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