Czech deal 'major step' for high-speed rail exports

Updated 2016-12-21 09:30:35 Global Times

First sale in EU is also sign of global recognition

High-speed rail exports by China achieved a major step on Tuesday, with the signing of an agreement to sell electric multiple units (EMUs) to the Czech Republic - the first such deal with an EU member, a Chinese expert said.

CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co signed a deal with Czech rail operator Leo Express on Monday to sell three EMUs for 20 million euros (.79 million), the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday. The deal also covers other equipment and training services for the EMUs.

The deal marks the first time that Chinese EMUs are entering the EU market, a sign that China's rail transit manufacturing industry starts to gain international recognition, Liao Hongtao, a vice general manger of CRRC Zhuzhou, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

The deal doesn't necessarily mean that the Chinese rail manufacturer has met all EU standards, but it is still a big step forward, Sun Zhang, a professor at the Railway and Urban Transportation Research Institute of Tongji University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"To further boost our high-speed rail technology exports, we have to move toward meeting the EU's standards, which are internationally recognized," Sun said. "We have to make our technology compatible with European standards. That will open a lot of doors for us."

To reach more markets in Europe, especially in Western Europe, entering Central and Eastern Europe first is the right step, because that will help Chinese companies establish good track records in the continent and gain expertise, according to Sun.

The EMUs sold to the Czech Republic will also be compatible with the rail systems in Slovakia and Poland, according to Liao. He said the Czech company also expressed an interest in purchasing as many as 30 EMUs within the next three years.

In November 2015, Chinese companies won contracts reportedly worth .6 billion to build a high-speed railway linking Hungary and Serbia. Construction began last year and the rail line is expected to open in 2018, according to media reports.

Sun said these projects in East Europe will not only help link China with the region - they will also support the long-term "going global" strategy of China's high-speed rail sector, which has hit some bumps this year.

In June, U.S. company XpressWest unilaterally terminated a deal with China Railway International to building a high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

While the termination of that project might have been due to political reasons, Chinese rail companies do need to further improve their safety performance and other technologies, Sun said.

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