Japan Railway & Transport Review No. 57 (p36-p41)
Feature : Expansion of High–speed Rail Services
Development of High–speed Railways in China
The rapid developments seen recently in high–speed railways in China are astonishing. The lengths and speeds of lines in operation have already surpassed Japan’s high–speed rail operation, making China’s high–speed network number one in the world. As someone who has played a part in the development of high–speed rail in China, I would like to explain that development, its details and necessity, as well as the factors behind technological developments, station positioning, and urban planning, etc.
State of High–speed Railway Development
China’s high–speed railway construction plan was announced
in 2004 as a mid-to-long-term rail network plan. The plan has
since been reviewed and adjusted, but at the end of October
2010, it consists of the network shown in Figure 1 and Table
3. The plan is to have more than 13,000 km of track by 2012,
and 20,000 km or more by 2020.
Necessity for High–speed Railways
To help understand the railway system in China, Table 2
compares China and Japan. Although the comparisons
are from 2008 and China’s rail network is still small, the
table shows that the limited rail network is used heavily to
provide both freight and passenger services. Compared to
Japan, China has a vast inland region, thus China’s freight
transportation ratio is high, meaning railway expansion is a
big factor in China’s economic development.
from railway density, population, and number of cities, we
can see that major cities in China are linked together in
the same way as they are in Japan. So even seen from the
perspective of passenger transport, building of high–speed
railways and intercity lines between neighbouring cities and
urban lines must be sustained to maintain present and future
|Table 1: Overview of Ultra High–speed (9250km/h) Lines
Table 2: China–Japan Comparisons
Table 3: China’s High–speed Railway Construction (October 2010)
Figure 1: China’s High–speed Railway Construction Plan
Photo: High–speed trains based on Japanese technology transfers (JARTS)
Development of High–speed Railway Technologies
Essentially, China’s national policy is to make its own
products. With respect to construction of high–speed
railways, China first set out to build its own high–speed lines.
In order to do this, it studied high–speed railway technologies
from around the world, and trial manufactured two
proprietary designs for 300-km/h operation (a locomotive
hauled train and a distributed-traction type electric train)
as well as building a 50-km, high–speed passenger-only
test track from Qinhuangdao to Shenyang, where overseas
and domestic technologies were introduced and trains built and tested. Japan’s slab track technology was introduced here using published technical data without assistance from Japan. However, in the end, Japan was asked to provide technical support. In any event, China’s approach is to trial
produce necessary products at least once, and then to
technical support. In any event, China’s approach is to trial produce necessary products at least once, and then to
procure technical guidance, in order to make the technology their own.
Station Positioning and Urban Development
At the start, the Wuhan–Guangzhou passenger line opened
in December 2009 had 18 stations, of which only Guangzhou
North Station incorporated the existing station into the new
one. All the others are new stations. Even the two termini
at Wuhan Station (there was no Wuhan Station on the old line)
and at Guangzhou South Station are both new. With
15 platforms and 28 tracks, Guangzhou South Station is the
biggest in Asia. It was built on farmland well away from the
city centre, but it is not just the enormous size of the station that stands out. There are other development plans for the surrounding area, such as a station-front plaza and a car park.
In the future, there is also a plan to build a subway
to link the city with the station, making it the southern hub of Guangzhou City and stimulating further development.
Likewise, other new stations are involved in similar plans,
with stations becoming focal points of urban development,
which will transform them into fully fledged urban locales.
|Photo: Laying (left) and completed (right) test slab track (JARTS)|
Advantages of Public Land Ownership
In China, all land is owned publicly but is managed by provincial governments. Under this system, approval can be given for leasing or selling/buying land. However, that said, there is no way a provincial government would give such approval to a private individual wanting to build a home. Instead, approval is offered on public-works land either to villages or entire regions that are prepared to enter into projects to develop regions or likewise build roads and railway lines, etc., or to private developers who want to carry out large-scale development. Therefore, when deciding to approve the land usage, the provincial government considers its own urban development plans and provides guidance, meaning that large-scale urban development can move ahead more effectively and speedily than in Japan. Moreover, land leasing provides tax revenue that boosts local government finances, so provincial governments are keen to lease out land—in other words to turn land over to development schemes; land usage fees are determined at the discretion of the provincial government. Thus, when it comes to development along a newly constructed railway line, the provincial government can obtain the money brought by rises in land prices as a result of railway construction in advance. Further, this money can then be used to repay debts created by the railway construction. In Japan of the past, big private railway companies joined together to build lines and develop the surrounding areas, taking a lot of time (10 years or more). By contrast, in China, the same kind of projects are now being implemented easily and, what is more, on a grand scale.
|Photo: Visualization of Guangzhou South Station (JARTS)|
Construction of high–speed railways in China is essential from the perspective of the massive Chinese population, the locations of cities, and the development of the economy. Construction will result in ever-greater human movement, development of new urban areas along the rail lines, and massive economic benefits. It is hoped that the increasing urban population will help rectify the economic disparities between rural and urban citizens, an issue of great concern in China. Although I am not sure which way things will go, I watch these railway developments with interest.
Dr Takagi is an Executive Vice President of Japan Railway Technical Service (JARTS). He joined Japan Railway Construction Public Corporation after earning his BSc degree from Hokkaido University in 1966. He joined JARTS in April 1994, and earned his doctorate in English in March 2005.