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China's high-speed rail ready for export

Updated: 2013-11-05 08:56
( Xinhua)

BEIJING - Switzerland is known for exporting fine watches, while the most sophisticated machinery is believed to be found in Germany, but when it comes to a pleasant trip on a safe, comfortable high-speed train, the world is turning its eyes to China.

The high-speed train has raced along Chinese rails for about five years, on a journey from controversy to kudos. Now, based on years of technical advancement and time-tested practice, it is poised to flex its global muscles and pick up some international passengers.

During his state visit last month, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gave China's high-speed railway technology the hard sell in Thailand, supported by an exhibition in Bangkok showing off the advanced technology, safety and cost advantages of the Chinese system.

China has built the world's longest and most heavily used high-speed railway network -- nearly 10,000 kilometers of it -- with trains continuously setting new speed records in test runs.

China's railway technology leads the world. Track technology, for example, means high-speed trains cross vast distances through loess, wetlands and alpine regions. Technical problems have been solved and safety is assured.

The margin for track error on the network is so tiny that it rivals  Formula 1 race cars. The Beijing-Guangzhou line, at 2,298 kilometers the world's longest, wows the world. After more than a decade of research and innovation, China's railway has become a worldwide success story, but no success is earned without some controversy and doubt.

The bullet train accident in 2011 provided other high-speed train manufacturing countries with ample opportunity to belittle China's technological capability. However, poor management in train dispatch was blamed for the deadly crash and, as the two trains were both running at less than 100 kilometer per hour when they collided, the accident was not the result of "high-speed".

The crash brought a more cautious approach to high-speed rail development. Problems were discovered, faced and solved. One accident cannot derail the entire growth of a high-speed railway, and now trains have regained the confidence of the Chinese people with tickets often sold out on weekends and public holidays

The fall of the former minister and other corrupt railway officials dealt another blow to high-speed rail development, bringing GDP-oriented concerns to its rapid expansion.

With six increases in the speed of conventional railway travel over  past years, safety concerns left China's railways with little room to further up their speed, so new high-speed trains were the solution.

Waste was another target for criticism: would the high-speed trains be too expensive for most people? One glimpse into increasingly full compartments on high-speed lines tells you all you need to know: On weekends, public holidays, and students' summer and winter vacations, high-speed trains are packed.

More high-speed trains now shuttle between cities like buses as they become increasingly connected. It can be as short as a five minute wait for the next high speed train between Beijing and Tianjin. The shortest interval between trains is only three minutes between Wuhan and Guangzhou. Profits can be fairly anticipated with such a convenient network and growing passenger numbers.

Punctual, fast, and comfortable, high-speed trains have become a fast favorite in China, turning long-distance travel from an excruciating experience to an enjoyable one.

China's first high-speed train line -- Beijing and Tianjin -- has carried hundreds of international leaders and dignitaries, lauding its smoothness, comfort and speed since its launch in 2008.

As some foreigners put it, one can take Eurostar in Europe, the Shinkansen in Japan, and now the CRH -- China Railway High-speed-- in China. What is more, CRH is faster and links more cities.

As the Chinese high-speed railway network grows, it is high time that China exported its technology and expertise, probably starting with neighboring countries, where its advantages are suited to developing nations and will speed up progress.