Discussing the Future of Chinese High Speed Rail with Experts in China

Posted by on Mar 10, 2012 in Beijing, China, David Feng Views, Trains | No Comments

22:19 (UTC+08:)0), 10 MAR 2012 | CHN BEIJING

I was invited on 03 March 2012 to a meeting I didn’t think I would actually end up going to, since it was probably “too” well-populated with distinguished academics and specialists. However, the independent Chinese website that ran the event (Du Jia Wang in Chinese, meaning Independent Views Web) told me that I was invited since I was considered a “major voice” on Sina Weibo (a kind of Twitter for China) on the topic of high speed rail in China.

Here are some of the views I made at the conference, which featured key strategists, intellectuals, and experts:

  • The geographical characteristics of China means it needs HSR. Of its provincial capitals, almost all have a population of at least a million, with some having even more.
  • High speed rail remains profitable. Profits, however small, are already being made on several lines, including the Shanghai-Nanjing Intercity HSR, and increased passenger numbers are being recorded on high speed lines from Beijing to Tianjin and Shanghai, with even stronger growth predicted.
  • China has developed to the stage where it needs HSR. China has started from accelerated railways to the Maglev, and now runs HSR trains at around 300 km/h. It has done this gradually, as people have been better off.
  • Deliberately slowing trains and downgrading speed standards on new trunk lines is a bad idea. This will mean wasted money, very little expenses saved, and a cut in efficiency. It is recommended that only slower lines are built first so to avoid downgraded lines being built.
  • HSR is key to China and its general strategy. It is a green, fast, and sensible choice for China in the wider transport system.
  • High speed rail is visible overseas. China has had better airports and trains ever since the 2008 economic crises made the differences more visible between the West and China. The recent opening of the Beijing-Shanghai HSR won key international coverage, of which I was involved in.
  • Exporting HSR from China: Quality is very important; China could start exporting lower-speed trains first, then exporting the faster ones.
  • Risks of HSR as seen by the public: The general public must understand that the newer trains are much safer than the older trains, and that extensive testing is undertaken regularly. The Wenzhou crash was caused on a slower HSR line, not a new 300-350 km/h line.
  • General development strategies: I outlined five pointers: build HSR stronger, operate it safer, run it faster, serve people better, satisfy the needs of people and the economy.

    I gave two separate speeches at the event.