Rapid growth of high-speed rail in China

China only opened its high-speed rail service to passengers four years ago, but it now boasts the world's biggest network, with more than 8,300 kilometres of track - a figure that is growing rapidly.

Trains are by far the most popular form of long-distance transport in the country of more than 1.3 billion people where, despite three decades of blistering economic growth, air travel remains far too expensive for most people.

China recorded more than 1.68 billion passenger trips on its network in 2010, dwarfing the 248 million airline passenger journeys in the same period.

The vast country's 91,000-kilometre (57,000-mile) rail network carries hundreds of millions of people every year and stretches from the eastern metropolis of Shanghai to the remote Tibetan plateau.

In recent years, the government has invested heavily in high-speed train links as it strives to meet the growing demands on the transport system.

Last year, government spending on the high-speed railway surpassed 700 billion yuan ($109 billion), and China is now home to around half the world's high-speed tracks.

The network officially opened to passengers in 2007 with a link between China's commercial centre, Shanghai, and the city of Suzhou, 112 kilometres to the west.

By the end of last year it covered 8,358 kilometres, and it is expected to exceed 13,000 kilometres by 2012 and 16,000 kilometres by 2020.

But even before a collision Saturday between two high-speed trains triggered what the government called an "urgent" overhaul, there were fears that corruption and the breakneck pace of development could have compromised safety.

China's state auditor said construction companies and individuals last year siphoned off 187 million yuan from the Beijing-Shanghai project, which has been plagued by power cuts since opening to great fanfare last month.

Beijing sacked railways minister Liu Zhijun in February for allegedly taking more than 800 million yuan in kickbacks linked to contracts for high-speed rail expansion.

There are also growing complaints that ticket prices are too high for the low-paid masses.

The $33 billion high-speed track linking Beijing and Shanghai opened to passengers on June 30 - a year ahead of schedule and a day before celebrations to mark the 90th birthday of China's Communist party.

But sales of seats on the flagship link have been slow.

Ren Xianfang, a senior analyst at IHS Global Insight in Beijing, said the pace of development in China had been "phenomenal", but warned it could not be sustained.

"This (accident) could be a setback to the high-speed train development," she told AFP.

"I now feel nervous about taking passenger trains because it has confirmed our worries about potential safety issues with the high-speed trains. I think this is a very bad situation for the government."

Foreign companies participating in the development of high-speed rail in China have also accused Chinese state-owned companies of stealing some of their technology or forcing them to transfer their know-how - charges China denies.

China's high-speed trains were based on foreign technology but it had improved the technology to make the trains even faster, He Huawu, chief engineer of the railways ministry, said last July.

Authorities have reduced the maximum speed of bullet trains to 300 km per hour to make journeys safer and more affordable.

amj/cc/mtp

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk