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The High speed rail network takes off in China

February 19, 2014
Author: Eve-Marie Morgo

By 2050, Europe will count with a complete European high-speed rail network, tripling the current track's length. By then, rail will cover medium distance trips! It looks like a long way to go, but still there a great rail developments happening today: not only in Europe but in Asia. Is time to talk about China.

Travelling in Asia at 300km/h

Recently, China opened its flagship stretch of tracks, Beijing to Shanghai at 300 km/h. But this is only one very small part of a huge puzzle. Indeed, China is well on its way to housing the world’s most extensive rail network. The country is already half way through constructing its 16,000 km tracks, which will be complete in 2020, with a $300billion cost.

But, it’s not been all plain sailing: the project and ticket prices were criticised for being too expensive. On top, there were some severe technical problems. 

High-speed rail vs airlines

Prior to the opening of the track, many predicted that the bullet trains would take airlines’ market share on the same route. In the first weeks, tickets were being sold at a 36% discount. But now, airlines are profiting from rail’s woes and the recent troubles have redressed the balance in the airlines’ favour.

China's international rail technology and expertise

China is looking to extend their expertise and rail technology:

  • There is interest in bidding for contracts relating to West Midlands line construction.
  • In Brazil, Chinese groups are eying a $10 billion project.
  • In Turkey, they are helping to build a 158km track. This construction comes after Turkey and China agreed to work together to build 7,000kms rail line across Turkey by 2023. With such projects, China is planning to finance several rail projects aiming to connect all four corners of the country.

Amadeus High-Speed network lengths by comparison

High-speed rail is seen as a sign of modernisation and a way to stimulate economic development. It’s the jewel in the crown as far as transport is concerned and proof of how far a nation has come. It has such potential, that countries are now coming to blows over the technology that gets the trains moving. Recently, Japan accused China of stealing its high-speed rail patents and exporting their rail technology abroad. 

How far will China go in the following years in terms of rail developments? Given all of the ongoing investment, we have identified 5 factors to unlock rail travel across Asia Pacific in our latest whitepaper. Download it now:  

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