China's railway tech is 'mature and safe'

China's high-speed railway technology is not inferior to any other country's in safety and sophistication, senior officials said on Aug. 11, 2010.

Bullet trains running from 250 to 350 km per hour have operated for accumulated trips of 280 million km in the country so far, Su Shunhu, deputy chief of the transport bureau of the Ministry of Railways, said at a news conference.

"This shows that our high-speed railway technology is mature and safe," he said.

The words came after continuous denouncements from a Japanese high-speed rail company, which is competing with China for overseas business.

The Financial Times reported in April that Yoshiyuki Kasai, chairman of Central Japan Railway Co (JR Central), which is the operator of Japan's oldest and busiest bullet train, denounced China's growing high-speed rail industry for compromising safety and stealing foreign technology.

On July 27, Yoshiomi Yamada, president of JR Central, compared Japan's maglev train to an iPad while calling the Shanghai maglev train a toy, reported the Kyodo News. But in fact, the Shanghai train uses sophisticated Siemens technology, according to earlier media reports.

Li Jun, a spokesman for the railway ministry's transport bureau, said the accusations are groundless, suggesting their words are more of a competition strategy in pursuit of their own interests.

"China's high-speed railways have met all international requirements concerning safety.

Can they (JR Central) provide evidence to show we fail to meet any safety standard?" he said.

Some 355 bullet trains are zipping between China's major cities each day, including 121 bullet trains at a speed of 350 km per hour.

China's trains have the highest speeds in the world, he said.

In comparison, the operating speed in France is 320 km per hour, while in Germany and Japan, the speed is 300 km per hour. Japan is upgrading an existing rail line to raise the speed to 320 km per hour, he said.

"Some denounced China for stealing their technology. I am curious to know how can we steal from others when we are the fastest," he said.

The ministry plans to use bullet trains running at 380 km per hour on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed link next year, while France and Germany are developing trains that will run at 360 km per hour, he said.

"China has never denied importing foreign technologies, but we also made a lot of innovations on our own and developed faster trains," he said.

A high-speed rail system demands a lot of technological innovations to enhance the speed even by 30 km per hour on top of the base of 300 km per hour.

"Those reported denouncements and complaints were fired against us because they did not expect China to develop faster trains in such a short time and join the competition trying to cut a slice of the high-speed railway market," he said.

China wants to export its own high-speed technology, and many countries - including the United States, Russia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia - have expressed interest. Its main competitors include Germany, France and Japan.

No articles in the high-speed technology transfer agreements restrict China from exporting its high-speed trains and technologies, Li said.

"China will continue to cooperate with foreign companies and form a consortium to bid for some overseas projects," he said.

China is now home to more high-speed rail lines than any other country in the world, with a total of 6,920 km of train tracks.

The country will spend 800 billion yuan ($120 billion) to double its high-speed rail network by 2012.

Different from slow trains that operate on human judgment, the high-speed trains are generally believed safer, as any glitch detected by the train's operation system will stop the train until the problem is removed.

(China Daily, August 12, 2010 )