China has flexed its muscles as the new leader in high-speed rail by breaking a new world record for fastest passenger train. The Harmony Express, officially called CRH380A, hit a top speed of 302mph during a test run between capital Beijing and the financial hub of Shanghai.
Wang Yongping, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Railways, said: “It not only marks a milestone in the construction of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, but also is a major achievement of China’s technology innovation.”
The record underlines China’s drive to become a leading player in the high-speed rail business.
The track was completed for the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed link last month as part of a programme to create a network of high-speed trains spanning the country. The programme is aimed at easing pressure on China’s airports, and also offering a more eco-friendly alternative to short-haul domestic flight.
The project costs £21bn and the high-speed link between Beijing and Shanghai is expected to double the capacity of the current line to 80 million passengers a year and halve travel time to five hours. It runs from Beijing’s South railway station to Hongqiao airport in Shanghai and includes 24 stations in between.
By 2013, China will have the world’s most comprehensive high-speed railway network and 800 bullet trains.
China has 4,706 miles of high-speed railway, more than any other country, and by 2020 plans to increase this to 10,000 miles.
In April, China has unveiled plans to export its rail technologies worldwide, including the creation of a global network that would slash train times between Beijing and London to as little as two days.
The Chinese Ministry of Railways is considering plans to build two lines to Europe, one passing through India, Pakistan, the Middle East and terminating in London, while a second would head to Germany via Russia.
There are also plans for a third line extending south from China to connect Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia.
However negotiations among the various countries have only just started, and the lines are not likely to be completed before 2025.
If China is able to pull off this ambitious plan, it would be a huge boost to its rail industry and would help Beijing recoup the billions of yuan it has invested to transform its ageing national railways.
China’s Ministry of Railways is also going head-to-head with the Japanese for the US$8 billion which Barack Obama had earmarked to rebuild U.S. rail.
General Electric has already announced a partnership with the Chinese state group to manufacture equipment for U.S. high-speed rail projects.