Train makers hope to be on track for big US rail plan

By Liu Yiyu,Xin Dingding, and Tan Zongyang (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-10 09:09
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China 'leads world' in high-speed technology, ready for opportunities

BEIJING - The country's two major train manufacturers hope to get on track for potential business opportunities following the $53 billion high-speed rail investment plan unveiled by the Obama administration on Tuesday.

The plan, announced by US Vice-President Joe Biden in Philadelphia, will roll out 3,200 km of new rail networks and aims to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years. Biden called on Congress to back the six-year investment in high-speed intercity rail.

China's largest train manufacturer, CSR Corp, welcomed the investment plan, a source with the company, who refused to be identified, told China Daily on Wednesday.

"CSR is interested in bidding to supply high-speed trains to the US," the source said.

CSR signed an agreement with General Electric (GE) in December 2010 to establish a 50-50 joint venture to manufacture high-speed trains in the US using China's technology, and to jointly explore the US high-speed rail market.

When President Hu Jintao visited the United States in January, CSR signed letters of intent for ventures with GE. The deals could bring in $1.4 billion and create 2,000 jobs in the US, and include an order for 500 exported locomotive kits and related services valued at $350 million, GE Transportation Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Simonelli said on Jan 19.

China's second-largest train maker, CNRCorp, is "also interested in the US high-speed rail project," Xie Jilong, board secretary, said.

The spokesman for China Railway Construction Corp, one of China's largest heavy construction firms, was not available for comment on Wednesday. But a report by CBS in January said a delegation from the company had shown interest in building high-speed railways in California and took a helicopter tour of the area where construction is slated to begin.

French, Japanese and South Korean companies have also shown interest in the US high-speed railway plan.

The source with CSR, which produced the CRH380A train that set a world record of 486.1 km/h during a trial run on Dec 3, said he believed China's high-speed rail technology leads the world, though the country is a newcomer to the industry.

"China can offer a complete package of services," the source said.

China operates the world's longest high-speed rail network with a combined length of 8,358 km, which is expected to reach 13,000 km by 2012, according to the Ministry of Railways.

AFP reported on Wednesday that the French engineering giant Alstom also welcomed the US plan.

"We are confident that such infrastructure investments in high-speed rail and traditional rail networks will make a significant contribution in creating jobs, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing dependence on foreign oil," the company's North America director Guillaume Mehlman said.

"We look forward to getting to work - and putting people to work - in building America's new rail transportation network," he said in a statement.

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Although Biden said the high-speed investment plan was "dreaming big" on reinventing US infrastructure, the Republicans, now wielding the power of the purse after November's mid-term election triumph, slammed the plan, and called on the White House to stop throwing money at America's "Soviet-style" railroad system.

Biden and President Barack Obama have argued that reinvigorating America's creaking Amtrak service makes sense for economic, practical and environmental reasons, and advocates bemoan the limited routes of the current US high-speed rail network.

"As a longtime Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced," Biden said.

"This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high speed rail for more Americans."

The service envisages three types of interconnected rail corridors - including a core express service with electric trains whisking passengers along dedicated tracks at between 200 and 400 km/h.

Another network of regional corridors would see trains travel at speeds between 144 and 200 km/h, while a third branch would funnel passengers toward speedy intercity networks.

Ray LaHood, Obama's secretary of transportation, said "this historic investment in America's high-speed rail network keeps us on track toward economic opportunity and competitiveness in the 21st century".