A train designed to run at a speed
of 200 km per hour left east China's Shanghai for Suzhou early Wednesday
morning, ushering in a high-speed era for the world's fastest growing economy.
Brand new homemade high-speed trains CRH are seen at a
railway station in Jinan, East China's Shandong Province, April 12, 2007.
The CRH trains which could run at least 200km per hour, will serve on high
speed routes between major cities after the sixth nationwide railway
speedup from April 18. [Xinhua]
140 pairs of high-speed trains with a speed of 200 km per hour or a faster speed
will begin to hit the railways on Wednesday. The number will increase to 257 by
the end of this year.
Numbered D460, the train left Shanghai on 5:38 a.m. and is expected to arrive
in Suzhou 39 minutes later.
With today's sixth railway speedup, China will join the ranks of countries
with high-speed rail services.
Trains will be able to run at speeds of up to 200 kph on some 6,003 km of
track, and on some sections, the maximum speed will increase to 250 kph.
"That length (6,003 km) exceeds the total amount of rail lines capable of
accommodating trains at that speed (200 kph) in nine European countries," said
Vice-Minister of Railways Hu Yadong.
"And raising the speed to 200 kph on so much track in only one move is also
rare in the world."
As of today, trains will be able to run at speeds of up to 160 kph on 14,000
kilometers of track and up to 120 kph on 22,000 km of track.
km of track capable of accommodating the fastest speeds will serve both
high-speed passenger and heavily loaded cargo trains, which travel at slower
The need for
first railway speedup happened on April 1, 1997. Besides lifting the
average speed to 54.9 kph (it was officially recorded as 48.1 kph in
1993), it also saw the introduction of new express trains with a top
speed of 140 kph. Also, to reduce journey times, some long-distance
routes began operating overnight services.
second speedup came on October 1, 1998 and was marked by a new top
speed for express trains of 160 kph. The average speed for express
trains rose to 71.6 kph, while standard passenger trains also
accelerated to an average of 55.2 kph. The country's first luggage
trains and nonstop trains to tourist destinations were also
number three came into effect on October 21, 2000 and was mostly
concerned with the speed of trains traveling on the
Lanzhou-Lianyungang and Beijing-Hong Kong routes. The average speed
of standard passenger trains rose to 60.3 kph.
fourth speedup came on October 21, 2001 and involved some 13,000 km
of passenger routes covering the majority of the country. It saw the
average speed rise to 61.6 kph and also the introduction of
additional express trains.
fifth speedup came into effect on April 18, 2004 and involved some
16,500 km of track. The average speed of passenger trains rose to
65.7 kph, while for express trains on arterial routes the top speed
was upped to 200 kph.
sixth speedup comes into play today. A total of 6,003 km of line
will have their top speed increased to 200 kph, while on some
sections, express trains will be able to hit 250 kph.
Railway operators will have to address the speed gap between the two kinds of
trains to make sure they both run safely.
He Huawu, the ministry's general engineer, said the ministry had drafted an
operational chart to allow trains to run at an interval of "only five minutes".
He added that it was rare for a rail operator to run such a tight schedule.
He also noted that in addition to the speed gap between passenger and cargo
trains, the two have "totally opposite requirements for tracks". For example,
high-speed passenger trains require a much smoother track than a heavily loaded
cargo train, He said.
Other transportation experts have doubted the wisdom of running the two kinds
of trains on one rail network.
"A heavily loaded cargo train's destructive power is the same as that of an
overloaded vehicle on the expressway," Nanfang Weekly quoted an expert as
However, He said railway authorities had adopted advanced technology to
resolve any problems.
The country's rail system has reportedly benefited from several upgrades,
including an advanced safety control system that includes 60-kg steel rails as
well as the latest sleeper cars, the strongest switches available and
anti-friction devices. The signal system has also been upgraded.
The system allows the authorities to maintain tighter control of high-speed
trains, Initial experiments and a trial run have both yielded positive results.
He also said the ministry had set up systems for testing and monitoring,
facilities management and emergency responses.
And for the first time, the ministry has installed advanced track that relies
on laser technology.
"I can say that China's railway infrastructure and rail track technology have
both reached an advanced level," He said.