Business / Industries

Chinese wheels set to run on UK rails

By Meng Jing and Cecily Liu (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-02 08:47

Chinese wheels set to run on UK rails

Trainmakers look to the future with projects in the UK and Europe, report Meng Jing in Birmingham and Cecily Liu in London.

About 151 years ago, it was the British who built the first railway line in China. Now the Chinese want to return the favor by supplying the United Kingdom with state-of-the-art trains that can run on the country's first high-speed rail.

The opportunity they see is Britain's HS2, the high-speed train project that links London with the English Midlands and Northern England. Advanced technology, extensive experience and cost efficiency are believed to be the competitive advantages that Chinese firms are banking on to open the doors in the UK and other mature economies in Europe.

"Western companies, such as Germany's Siemens AG and France's Alstom, entered the high-speed rail sector earlier, but no countries in the world have a high-speed rail network as extensive as China's," Yu Weiping, vice-president of CNR Corp, told China Daily at a recent rail exhibition in the UK.

CNR is set to become the world's largest maker of rolling stock by sales after its merger with CSR Corp. The latter has set up a UK subsidiary that will now become the UK subsidiary of the merged company.

Yu said that about 60 percent of the world's high-speed railways are in China and China's high-speed rail network is the world's most complicated one. "The climate and geographic situation in China is diverse from the north to the south and from the east to the west. It is safe to say that if our high-speed trains can adapt to the complicated situation in China, they can run in any country in the world," he said.

Yu said his team has been following the HS2 project for a long time and is having ongoing communication with the relevant authorities in the UK.

HS2, planned by the UK government, will be built in two phases. The first phase, linking London and Birmingham, will start construction in 2017. It has an indicated opening date of 2026 and a government estimated cost of 22 billion pounds ($34.1 billion). Phase two is an extension to Manchester and Leeds, opening by 2033. Other companies with an interest in HS2 are Alstom, Siemens and Japan's Hitachi Ltd.

Yu said his company has been tracking 28 projects from around the world. "However, it takes years for foreign governments to kick off a high-speed rail project. But I am confident about our technologies and products. In a couple of years, we will have gained more experience in high-speed trains, which means more chances for us to win the project in the UK," he said.

The expansion of Chinese high-speed train firms in the UK is welcomed by experts in the railway industry who recognize the quality of Chinese high-speed train technology and believe their bidding for HS2 adds diversity and a dose of healthy competition.

"Chinese companies' experience, building an extensive amount of railways in China, has meant they are able to bring tried and tested solutions at a lower price point, and ones that rely on lower energy consumption levels than local firms," said James Jameson, vice-president of product strategy at Rivo Software Ltd, a UK firm that supplies safety software to the rail industry.

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