Move will enhance competitiveness, but safety efforts should be strengthened
Experts said on Thursday efforts to restore China's bullet trains to 350 kilometers per hour will further increase the core competitiveness of Chinese railway technology and exports, but urged more efforts to ensure operational safety.
China Railway Corp made no comment on Thursday on media reports of a planned speed hike for bullet trains between Beijing and Shanghai from the current maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour to 350 kilometers.
Financial news site caixin.com reported on Tuesday that China Railway has completed a theoretical debate process and is now working with multiple departments on preparations for the speed hike, which is scheduled for sometime around the National Day holidays in October.
An employee at the public relations department of China Railway contacted on Thursday said the company had no announcement to make.
Citing multiple sources, caixin.com reports said that the locomotives carrying out the speed hike will be the Hexie series and the Fuxing series, and the travel time between the Chinese capital and its largest commercial city will be shortened from 4 hours 49 minutes to 4 hours. Even on services with multiple stops en route, the whole journey could be completed within 5 hours.
Covering a length of 1,318 kilometers and put into operation in June 2011, the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway cost 220.9 billion yuan (.63 billion) to build. A test run once booked a record speed of 486 kilometers per hour in December 2010.
The nation's next-generation Fuxing high-speed train, which was completely designed and manufactured in China, is capable of running at 400 kilometers per hour.
By the end of last year, there were around 22,000 kilometers of high speed rail lines in China, accounting for 60 percent of the world's total.
"Currently, some countries are experimenting with or contemplating faster high-speed trains. Operating a number of high-speed train services running at a maximum speed of 350 kilometers per hour will further boost the brand value of Chinese bullet trains, helping its overseas expansion drive," Sun Zhang, a rail expert and professor at Shanghai Tongji University, told the Global Times on Thursday.
South Korea, Germany and Russia are testing or working on high-speed trains running as fast as 440 kilometers per hour, Sun noted.
Although many rail lines have the capacity to run services at 350 kilometers per hour, China has capped its high-speed trains' speed at 300 kilometers per hour since 2011.
There are some downsides, said Sun. "Increasing the top speed will lead to higher consumption of power, and cause the pressure for maintenance and safety work to rise. China Railway Corp, as the railway operator, will have to beef up its efforts in ensuring operational safety," Sun said.
Sun noted that China now operates the fastest bullet train system in the world.