China is designing its next generation of trains that can carry passengers at a top speed of 500 kilometers (310 miles) an hour and cargo at 250km/h, with wheels that can adjust to fit different track gauges used around the world.
Under an ambitious government plan starting this year, the country is developing trains that can run on a hybrid-propulsion system that allows higher speeds, said Jia Limin, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University.
Using the enhanced technology and expanded network, “China will have the experience to operate high-speed rail networks in the world’s most diverse geographic and climatic conditions, from deserts to alpine plateaus to rainforests”, said Jia during an interview in Hong Kong.
China’s high-speed rail network is designed to operate in harsh winters in the northeastern provinces, where winter temperatures can plummet to 40 degrees Celsius below freezing, to the world’s highest altitudes in the Tibet autonomous region, to deserts on its western frontiers.
The country is using high-speed rail as the next spearhead to gain a technological edge over the United States, Japan and Europe.
The domestic high-speed tracks already cover 20,000km, or 60 per cent of the world’s installed network. That will expand to 30,000km by 2020 and 45,000km by 2030, said Jia, who heads the Chinese program to develop fast trains.
Chinese companies now have about 3,000km of high-speed rail contracts on their order books outside the country. Led by state-owned China Railway Rolling Stock, the firms have secured deals to build high-speed rail projects in Turkey, Indonesia, Thailand andRussia and are bidding for projects in Malaysia, the U.S. and South America.
The hybrid-propulsion systems can be driven by electrical power lines with backup from batteries and diesel engines.
There are also plans to test a next-generation bullet train capable of topping 600km/h (372 mph).
China wants to be the main builder for an overland rail network from Singapore in the southern tip of Southeast Asia northwards through Indochina and China, then westwards through central Asia and Europe.
The plan is part of the government’s so-called “one belt, one road” programme to recreate the ancient Silk Road trade routes. It calls for technology that can adapt to different train gauges used along the way from Southeast Asia’s metre-wide gauge to China’s 1.435-metre standard gauge to Russia’s 1.52-metre broad gauge.
Chinese companies invested nearly $15 billion in countries participating in Beijing’s new Silk Road initiative in 2015, up one-fifth from 2014. China has dedicated $40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
SOURCES- South China Morning Post, Wikipedia