China wants to build one of the world’s fastest high-speed trains, capable of carrying passengers with a top speed of 311 mph. Development is scheduled as early as this year.
Beijing Jiaotong University professor Jia Limin told South China Morning Post that super high-speed trains will be powered by an innovative new hybrid-propulsion system that surpasses current high-speed technologies. The professor heads the government program to develop the high-speed trains.
With the innovation, plus the 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. “That gives Chinese technology the unique ability to adapt to any condition anywhere in the world.”
Chinese companies have “absorbed and digested” foreign technology after a high-speed railway project in 2004 where foreign companies were forced to share their technologies with local engineers. Through this, Jia said China was able to create innovations of their own.
The proposed train technology also allows for wheels that can be adjusted to fit different track gauges used around the world. It will also be designed to operate in harsh weather conditions in provinces where temperatures can drop to negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ambitious project, which aims to assert the country’s technological edge over the United States, Japan and Europe, also promises to overcome the world’s highest altitudes in mountainous Tibetan and even the expansive deserts within its territories.
High-speed tracks in the country, which measure at a total of 20,000 km, makes up 60% of the world’s tracks. The planned expansion would extend the current network to 30,000 km by 2020 and 45,000 km by 2030.
China also wants to be the world’s main builder of the next generation of railways. The government-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corp and other railroad firms have reportedly secured deals to build high-speed rail projects in Turkey, Indonesia, Thailand and Russia. Projects in Malaysia, the U.S. and South America are also currently in talks.
An overland train system that would run from Singapore, which will pass through Indochina and China and then through central Asia and Europe, is also being planned. China wants to be the one to build it, realizing part of the government’s plan of the so-called “one belt, one road” program to recreate the ancient Silk Road.
While Jia is confident with Chinese train builders’ capabilities, he admits geopolitical considerations may cast a limit to the country’s big railroad dreams.