Tag Archives: high-speed railway

Local accounts of high-speed rail reform in China

Speelman, Tabitha. (2015) A bullet train or a paved road? Local accounts of high-speed rail reform in China. The Newsletter, International Institute for Asian Studies, 70 (Spring 2015). URL : http://www.iias.nl/the-newsletter/article/bullet-train-or-paved-road-local-accounts-high-speed-rail-reform-china?utm_source=emailcampaign346&utm_medium=phpList&utm_content=HTMLemail&utm_campaign=%5BIIAS%5D+The+Newsletter+|+No.+70+|+Spring+2015f
The first Chinese high-speed rail (HSR) connection opened in 2007, but by the end of 2013 the country had over 12,000 km of high-speed tracks (the biggest network in the world and about half of all HSR tracks in operation worldwide). Service levels among China’s high-speed trains are high; passengers play games on their phones and consume luxury foodstuff s sold on board, as they near their destination at 300 km/h. The perfectly air-conditioned, mostly quiet HSR environment stands in stark contrast to the bustling carriages of regular Chinese trains, in which passengers chat over card games and share life stories, eating instant noodles and sunflower seeds (not for sale on HSR). Influencing traveling cultures is only one of many ways in which the construction of the world’s most advanced highspeed railroad (HSR) network is changing China, a country in which access to travel is closely tied to socio-economic development. So far, scholarly attention has been limited, but whether it is the economic impact of HSR on remote regions, emerging forms of tourism, or the nostalgia surrounding the disappearing slow trains, the approach of the HSR era in China brings with it many topics worthy of further research.


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Chinese high-speed trains in Europe

Two months ago, Chinese premier Li Keqiang visited Central and Eastern Europe, and attended a regional summit in Bucharest, Romania. This visit coincided with the conclusion of several business deals.

One of these deals concerns infrastructure and transport systems. China and Romania have agreed on the construction of a high-speed rail network connecting Constanta on the Black Sea to Bucharest and then maybe onto Budapest in Hungary.

Other countries showed interest in similar proposals; another high-speed train line may be built between Budapest and Belgrade in Serbia.

What can we learn from this partnership?

Firstly, China has gained a real expertise in high-speed rail. After building an impressive high-speed rail network in its homeland, China can now export its know-how, which will help its diplomatic relations.

Secondly, this also shows the disparities in high-speed rail development within Europe. Whereas the Eurostar has connected Paris and London for almost twenty years, rail transportation in Central and Eastern Europe still suffers from poor infrastructure.

How should Europe feel about this Chinese offer?

Of course, Central and Eastern Europeans can only welcome this opportunity that will surely boost their development.

However, some would deplore the fact that China has succeeded where the EU has failed. Why does Romania have to turn to China to get this high-speed rail network? Why hasn’t the EU launched a similar programme already?

Maybe the most important point regarding the nature of this project is the way this agreement has been reached. China will use this project as a showcase for operations in other countries, and so offered very attractive conditions for the construction of this network. Usually, before deciding on this kind of large-scaled investment, tenders are required and competition among private companies is the rule.

There is no problem using Chinese technologies for constructing and operating high-speed rail networks in Europe, as long as they are the best solution, but there needs to be fair competition among companies – this is a key principle of the EU. Furthermore, we should question if cooperation between China and EU member states should be focused solely on the financing of infrastructures, when there a broader exchange, both technologically and culturally, could be developed.

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Jinqin high-speed rail started operation

未命名Jin (Tianjin) qin (Qinhuangdao) high-speed rail has started operation since December 1st.  This high-speed rail line runs 287 km, from the Tianjinxi Station to the  Qinhuangdao Station. With a maximum speed of 350km, the initial operating speed is 300 km/per hour. The fastest traveling time from Tianjin to Qinhuangdao has hence been reduced to  1 hour 11 minutes, and from Tianjin to Harbin, it now only takes seven hours.






Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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