China’s High Speed Rail

China’s Low Cost High Speed Rail

China is famous for its low cost high speed rail construction, yet it beats every other country except Japan for HSR safety. According to a World Bank paper titled High-Speed Railways in China: A Look at Construction Costs, several factors influence the cost of a high speed rail project construction. The major factors include the line design speed, topography along the alignment, weather conditions, land acquisition costs, use of viaducts instead of embankments, the construction of major bridges across wide rivers, and the construction of mega stations.

Laying track on viaducts is often preferred in China to minimize resettlement and the use of fertile land as well as to reduce environmental impacts. The estimated cost of viaducts in China ranges from RMB 57 to 73 m/km for a double track line. Such costs are kept low through standardization of the design and manufacturing process for casting and laying bridge beams on viaducts.

China's High Speed Rail Network

China’s High Speed Rail Network

Special bridges that cross large navigable rivers or that need to accommodate special topographic features like mountains have much higher cost per kilometer than that of a regular viaduct. Usually such bridges represent a small percentage of the total number of bridges. Projects having larger proportion of special bridges tend to have a high unit cost.

Railway stations play a dual role as transport hubs and urban centers. Small stations (3,000 sq m station building) cost about RMB 40 million and account for 1.0 to 1.5 percent of the total project cost, while mega stations may cost up to RMB 13 billion and are frequently built as independent projects.

Lower unit costs were a result of the development of competitive multiple local sources for construction (earthworks, bridges, tunnels, EMU trains etc.) that adopted mechanization in construction and manufacturing. Further, large volumes and the ability to amortize capital investment in high-cost construction equipment over a number of projects contributed to the lowering of unit costs. 

Other factors include

  • a relatively low cost of land acquisition and resettlement,
  • localization of the design and manufacture of goods and components as well as the
  • standardization of designs for embankments, track, viaducts, electrification, signaling and communication systems.

For example, the slab track manufacture process was imported from Germany but the cost of the Chinese made product is about a third lower than the German product as a result of large volumes and a lower labor cost. The technology developed for construction of tunnels not only resulted in a low unit cost but also a speed of 5-10 m of tunnel construction per day. The HSR tunnel construction cost in China (about US$ 10-15 million per km) is a fraction of that in other countries. Tunnel costs are heavily influenced by geology and labor costs and, in the case of China, the latter has also helped in cost reduction.

China’s Low Cost High Speed Rail is on a tear! Read More…

Premier Li: Developing Central China

This article gives an excellent idea of how the Chinese government approaches its people’s needs holistically. And it isn’t just talk about developing central China. Soon I’ll be able to drive (on the just-opened Asian Highway) from my home in Chiang Mai to Kunming, the board a high-speed train either to Shanghai or….Lhasa!

Premier Li Keqiang (second from left) pays an inspection visit to the construction site of the Shanghai-Kunming high-speed railway in Changsha, Hunan province, on Thursday. LIU ZHEN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

Premier Li Keqiang visits construction of the Shanghai-Kunming high-speed railway in Changsha, Hunan province, developing Central China

Central China as growth engine for the entire nation

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China and Germany Freight rail links will increase 700% by 2020

Berlin Beijing Railway

Beijing Berlin Railway

There are two existing freight rail links between China and Europe. One is between Chengdu in Sichuan Province and Lodz in Poland. Another is between Chongqing and Duisburg in Germany. Both were established in recent years. The 9,826 km Chengdu – Lodz link was established in April 2013. Each trip takes 14 days, which is only one third of the time taken by sea. Freight cost is estimated to be reduced by 75%. The 10,800 km (6,750 miles) Chongqing – Duisburg route was established in July 2011. Each trip takes 13 days. The annual freight volume handled via this link in 2012 was 2 million metric tons. The estimated future peak volume is 15 million metric tons.

In 2012, the China-Germany cargo trains, “roughly eight football fields [800 yards or meters] long”, ran weekly. In early 2014 it runs three times weekly and, “to accommodate a sevenfold increase volume since 2012 — soon will go daily”. By 2020 trade with China could top that Germany has with the Netherlands and France, in 2014 the top two German trade partners.

According to the European Commission, as of March 2014, the EU is China’s biggest trading partner. Rail transport is becoming increasingly important for trade between Europe and China.

Rail shipping is half of the cost of air shipping and is faster than ships.

The China-EU freight trains average about 17 miles per hour. There are freight trains that go up to 50-60mph at times but that is unusual. Average freight train speeds in the US are 23-25 mph. Freight trains often have to wait 25 hours on journeys because of traffic or to let other trains pass. The China-EU route likely has delays in Kazakhstan and other countries with different gauge (width) rail.

Something traveling at 50 mph for the whole 6,750 miles would get from China to Germany in about 5.5 days. Read more at Next Big Future

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