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.
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.
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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 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