Railways body eyes more trains, dual-speed lines
China will boost rail passenger capacity and shift the nation's high-speed railway to a dual-speed system, regarded as less sophisticated than train systems in France and Japan.
Despite the greater capacity, demand will still exceed supply and millions of travellers will still have difficulty obtaining train tickets.
'With increased capacity, the ability to satisfy passenger demand will significantly improve,' the Railways Ministry said yesterday.
From July 1, the total passenger capacity on the mainland's trains will increase 9.6 per cent to four million, while rail freight capacity will rise 6 per cent, the ministry said. To achieve this, the ministry will boost the number of trains by 195 to 2,129.
However, rail passenger demand is at least five million people on average each day, said Wang Yongping, spokesman of the Ministry of Railways. 'This means the difficulty of getting train tickets will remain, not only during the Lunar New Year but also in other seasons.'
The Ministry of Railways said the change in plan was mainly to increase capacity on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway.
The 1,318-kilometre rail system will be officially launched later this month. Costing 220.9 billion yuan (HK$265 billion), it is the world's longest and most expensive high-speed line.
Under the new plan, the Beijing-Shanghai rail track will run two types of trains, a faster train capable of speeds of 300 kilometres per hour and a slower one at 250km/h, said the ministry.
For long-distance high-speed rail routes such as the Wuhan-Guangzhou line, the Zhengzhou-Xian line and Shanghai-Nanjing line, 300km/h and 250km/h trains will be used.
The mainland will also have a railway with 250kph and 160kph trains, and routes with ordinary passenger trains and freight trains.
'This is a good move. It's more market-driven and will meet passenger demand better,' said a Shanghai equity analyst.
Before the dismissal of former railways minister Liu Zhijun in February, the plan was to have dedicated high-speed railway lines with only 350km/h trains, said David Shipley, the managing director of CSRE, a British firm that markets Chinese trains.
'After Liu was sacked, the Chinese government is doing a strategic overhaul of the Railways Ministry in terms of operations and performance targets,' said Richard di Bona, who runs a Hong Kong transport consultancy.
Having slower and faster trains on the same track is less sophisticated than the high-speed rail systems of Japan and France, which have lines exclusively dedicated to high-speed trains, Di Bona said, noting that it is more difficult to co-ordinate faster and slower trains on the same track.
The purchase of more trains will benefit CSR Corp and China CNR Corp, the two dominant mainland train makers, said Thomas Wong, the joint company secretary of CSR.
Total passenger capacity on the mainland's trains by July 1, up 9.6 per cent but still below the average demand of five million