Homegrown technology creates speeds of 400 km/hr
China unveiled its next-generation bullet train to the public Monday, capable of top speeds of 400 kilometers per hour, as two "Fuxing" trains traveled between Beijing and Shanghai with passengers for the first time.
The Fuxing, which means "rejuvenation," is the first entirely domestically-developed high-speed train, or electric multiple unit (EMU), as it is called.
The two trains departed at the same time at 11.05 am from Beijing and Shanghai, respectively. Although the trains can go faster, there are currently no plans to change the current running speed of 300 kilometers per hour, according to the China Academy of Railway Sciences.
"The train was very popular, and all 576 tickets [per train] were sold out before departure," said Liang Zhaoyu, spokesperson for Beijing South Station. The new Fuxing trains are expected to gradually take the place of the old Hexie (harmony) trains on many high-speed routes.
Currently, two sets of Fuxing trains travel between Beijing and Shanghai every day, with the number expected to increase to four starting July 1, Liang said. It takes five hours and 45 minutes between Shanghai and Beijing with nine stops, and ticket prices remain unchanged, costing from 553 yuan () to 1,748 yuan.
On Monday, many railway aficionados were on board to see firsthand how China's high-speed train technology has developed.
A senior college student named Wang Yihao said he booked a business-class ticket from Beijing to experience the new train.
Agricultural expert Richard Herzfelder, heading from Beijing to Shanghai, told the Global Times that he always takes high-speed trains wherever he goes in China, and he thinks the Fuxing is more comfortable with wider seats and a better color scheme.
"Compared with high-speed trains in Japan and Europe, this train is faster … It's much more spread out. It's more convenient to take a train in China," he said.
The new train is designed to be more user-friendly, with Wi-Fi and more power sockets.
Solving the dilemma
Systems on the new EMU range, including traction, braking and local area networks are fully owned by China, Zhao Hongwei, vice chief engineer and researcher at the China Academy of Railway Sciences, told the Global Times.
This solves the problem that internal layout and replacement parts on existing high-speed trains do not couple together, she said.
There are four types of in-service bullet trains in China, introduced from Japan, Germany, France and Canada, Zhao Ting, a professor at the Beijing Jiaotong University, told the Global Times.
"The China-designed trains will largely reduce system maintenance costs, since 84 percent of its products are of Chinese standards … and China will gradually replace existing trains with the new ones within a couple of decades," Zhao Ting said.
According to the China Academy of Railway Sciences, the new model has a service life of over 30 years, compared with the existing ones that can operate for 20 years.
"The Fuxing trains are 4,050 millimeters high, compared with 3,700 millimeters of the Hexie. Thanks to new designs, the Fuxing's wind resistance is 7.5 to 12.3 percent less than the previous generation, and noise in the carriage is also noticeably reduced," said Zhang Bo, a research fellow at the Locomotive & Car Research Institute under the China Academy of Railway Sciences.
The Hexie express included innovations based on imported trains, but the new high-speed trains forge an independent platform where researchers can make changes without constraints from other countries, Zhang Bo told the Global Times.
Since the train came off the production line in June 2015, it has undergone tests of more than 600,000 kilometers to ensure safe operation, he said.
The goal is for EMUs to be "Created in China" from "Made in China" and the new high-speed trains will contribute to the country's "Go Global" strategy, Zhao Hongwei said.
"China has 22,000-kilometers of high-speed railway, representing 60 percent of the world's total. In this vast territory, domestic EMUs have been proven to meet the requirements for high-intensive sustainable running on different terrain," she said.
China signed contracts with Indonesia in April to construct a Chinese-standard high-speed railway line linking Jakarta and Bandung.
"In the short-term, China has a good chance to win the bid to connect Kuala Lumpur and Singapore [by high-speed rail]," said Xu Liping, a researcher on Southeast Asian affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
China and Thailand have also signed a contract for a high-speed rail link, which will run from Southwest China's Yunnan Province with northeastern Thailand via Laos.
"The core technology of Chinese bullet trains is competitive and it's capable of going global, if China improves its marketing skills," Xu said.