China’s One Belt One Road has proved to be a boon for trans-Eurasian rail transport, as these new rail lines would become its vanguard, establishing physical links between many of the key countries and a platform of cooperation from which to drive closer diplomatic and economic ties. What started out as two regular routes emerging from booming high-tech zones in Chongqing and Chengdu rapidly grew into a 39 route network linking together dozens of cities in China and Europe.
However, the divided nature of the trans-Eurasian rail routes were reducing the potential of the network as a whole. Cities were setting themselves up as competitors as they vied for cargo and “Silk Road” status, and it was becoming clear that a better organizational structure was needed .It was formally announced in October, 2016 by the NDRC that this melee of trans-Eurasian trains will be streamlined down to just three routes as part of a new five-year plan to improve the European service of China Railway Express and the China-Europe rail network as a whole.
Transport of high-value goods have driven the proliferation of the growing network of China-Europe cargo trains.
For most types of products, slow and cheap sea transport is more than adequate, but for expensive types of merchandise that need to be delivered fast, trans-Eurasian rail is becoming a real alternative to expensive air freight.
Russia’s proposed high-speed cargo rail line would be packaged with the much-discussed Moscow-Kazan high-speed passenger train, that will extend for 770 kilometers between the two cities, allowing people to get back and forth in as little as three hours. Construction is set to begin on this line later this year, with $6.5 billion of loans and $1.6 billion of FDI coming from China, while a German consortium led by Siemens, Deutsche Bank, and Deutsche Bahn promising to invest over $2.8 billion into its construction. This new HSR line is tentatively expected to open around 2023.
The broader plan is to extend the Moscow-Kazan high-speed rail line through Kazakhstan and all the way to Beijing, 7,769 kilometers away, feeding into China’s existing 19,000+ kilometer HSR system. This project would tie into China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and will in large part supplant Russia’s iconic, though aging, Trans-Siberian rail line. If this high-speed line is actually built, the total end to end commute time would be more than quartered, dropping to just under 33 hours.
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.
There is video of a european system for variable gauge rail.
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.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.