High-speed rail in China

High-speed rail in China

High-speed rail (HSR) trains in China

A China Railways CRH1 train in Guangzhou. CRH1 is based on Bombardier's Regina.
A China Railways CRH2C (left) and a China Railways CRH3C (right) train in Tianjin. The CRH2 is a modified E2-1000 Series Shinkansen. The CRH3 is based on Siemens' ICE3(class/Baureihe 403).
An eight-car China Railways CRH5 train-set. The CRH5 is derived from the Alstom Pendolino ETR600.
Chinese designed CRH380A train leaving Shanghai's Hongqiao Station.

High-speed rail in China (simplified Chinese: 中国高速铁路; traditional Chinese: 中國高速鐵路; pinyin: Zhōngguó gāosù tiělù) refers to any commercial train service in the China with an average speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) or higher. By that measure, China has the world's longest high-speed rail (HSR) network with about 9,676 km (6,012 mi)[1] of routes in service as of June 2011 including 3,515 km (2,184 mi) of rail lines with top speeds of 300 km/h (186 mph).[citation needed] In 2010, the BBC reported that by 2012, China was expected to have more high-speed railway track than the rest of the world combined.[2]

High-speed rail service in China was introduced on April 18, 2007, and daily ridership has grown from 237,000 in 2007 and 349,000 in 2008 to 492,000 in 2009 and 796,000 in 2010.[3] China's high speed rail network consists of upgraded conventional railways, newly-built high-speed passenger designated lines (PDLs), and the world's first high-speed commercial magnetic levitation (maglev) line. The country has been undergoing an HSR building boom. With generous funding from the Chinese government's economic stimulus program, 17,000 km (11,000 mi) of high-speed lines are now under construction. In early 2011, the HSR network was expected to reach 13,073 km (8,123 mi) by the end of the year[4] and 25,000 km (16,000 mi) by the end of 2015.[5]

China is the first and only country to have commercial train service on conventional rail lines that can reach 350 km/h (217 mph). Notable examples of HSR lines include:

  • The Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway, a passenger-dedicated trunk line opened in June 2011, that reduced the 1,318 km (819 mi) journey between the largest cities in China to under 5 hours. Trains reach top speeds of 300 km/h (186 mph) for the entire trip.
  • The Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, an intercity express line opened in 2008, that shortened the 117 km (73 mi) commute between the two largest cities in northern China to 30 minutes. Trains reach top speeds of 330 km/h (205 mph) and average 234 km/h (145 mph).
  • The Shanghai Maglev Train, an airport rail link service opened in 2004, that travels 30 km (19 mi) in 7 minutes, 20 seconds, averaging 240 km/h (149 mph) and reaching top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph).

China's initial high speed trains were imported or built under technology transfer agreements with foreign train-makers including Siemens, Bombardier and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Chinese engineers then re-designed internal train components and built indigenous trains that can reach operational speeds of up to 380 km/h (240 mph).[6][7] Foreign trainmakers continue to sell certain components but no longer supply train sets for China's high speed trains.[8] Most of the China Railway High-speed (CRH) train components are manufactured by local Chinese suppliers, with only a few parts imported.[citation needed] Reports differ over the extent to which Chinese engineers absorbed or expropriated foreign technology in building indigenous train sets and signal systems.[9][10] China currently holds close to 1,000 local and international patents for high speed rail technology.[citation needed]

The pace of China's high-speed rail expansion slowed sharply in 2011 after the removal of Chinese Railways Minister Liu Zhijun in February pending investigation for corruption and a fatal high-speed railway accident near Wenzhou in July. Concerns about HSR safety, high ticket prices, low ridership, financial sustainability of high speed rail projects and environmental impact have drawn greater scrutiny from the Chinese press.[11] Top operational speed of HSR trains on lines previously operating at 350 km/h were lowered to 300 km/h and those running at 250 km/h were lowered to 200 km/h.[12][13] By late summer 2011, state banks began to cut back lending to railway construction projects.[14] As of October 2011, work had halted on 10,000 km of track under construction due to shortage of funding.[15]



In the early 1990s, diesel-powered locomotives in China could attain a maximum speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) on passenger trains.

State planning for China's high speed railway began in the early 1990s. The Ministry of Railways (MOR) submitted a proposal to build a high speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai to the National People's Congress in December 1990.[16] At the time, the existing Beijing-Shanghai railway was already reaching capacity, and the proposal was jointly studied by the Science & Technology Commission, State Planning Commission, State Economic & Trade Commission, and the MOR.[16] In December 1994, the State Council commissioned a feasibility study for the line.[16] Policy planners debated the necessity and economic viability of high-speed rail service. Supporters argued that high-speed rail would boost future economic growth. Opponents noted that high-speed rail in other countries were expensive and mostly unprofitable. Overcrowding on existing rail lines, they said, could be solved by expanding capacity through higher speed and frequency of service. In 1995, Premier Li Peng announced that preparatory work on the Beijing Shanghai HSR would begin in the 9th Five Year Plan (1996–2000), but construction was not scheduled until the first decade of the 21st century.

The China Railways DJJ1 "Blue Arrow" train can attain a maximum speed of 210 km/h (130 mph) and was first deployed on the upgraded Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway in 2001.

The "Speed Up" campaigns

The building of the fourth line of the Guangshen Railway (pictured here in Feb. 2007) allows faster passenger train traffic to be separated from slower freight traffic. It is one of the earliest examples of a passenger dedicated line.

In 1993, commercial train service in China averaged only 48 km/h (30 mph)[17] and was steadily losing market share to airline and highway travel on the country's expanding network of expressways. The MOR focused modernization efforts on increasing the service speed and capacity on existing lines through double-tracking, electrification, improvements in grade (through tunnels and bridges), reductions in turn curvature, and installation of continuous welded rail. Through five rounds of "speed-up" campaigns in April 1997, October 1998, October 2000, November 2001, and April 2004, passenger service on 7,700 km (4,800 mi) of existing tracks was upgraded to reach sub-high speeds of 160 km/h (100 mph).[18] A notable example is the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway, which in December 1994 became the first line in China to offer sub-high speed service of 160 km/h using domestically-produced DF-class diesel locomotives. The line was electrified in 1998, and Swedish-made X 2000 trains increased service speed to 200 km/h (124 mph). After the completion of a third track in 2000 and a fourth in 2007, the line became the first in China to run high-speed passenger and freight service on separate tracks. The completion of the sixth and final round of the "Speed Up" campaigns in April 2007 brought HSR service to more existing lines: 423 km (263 mi) capable of 250 km/h (155 mph) train service and 3,002 km (1,865 mi) capable of 200 km/h (124 mph).[19] In all, travel speed was increased on 22,000 extended km (13,700 extended mi), or one fifth, of the national rail network, and the average speed of a passenger train improved to 70 km/h. The introduction of more non-stop service between large cities also helped to reduce travel time. The non-stop express train from Beijing to Fuzhou shortened travel time from 33.5 to less than 20 hours.[20] In addition to track and scheduling improvements, the MOR also deployed faster CRH series trains. During the Sixth Railway Speed Up Campaign, 52 CRH trainsets (CRH1, CRH2 and CRH5) entered into operation. The new trains reduced travel time between Beijing and Shanghai by two hours to just under 10 hours.

Higher-speed express train service allowed more trains to share the tracks and improved rail transport capacity. But high-speed trains often have to share tracks with heavy freight—in some cases with as little as 5 minutes headway.[20] To attain higher speeds and transport capacity, planners began to consider passenger-dedicated HSR lines on a grand scale.

The conventional rail v. maglev debate

The Shanghai Maglev Train running on a special-maglev track, departing the Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
In 2002, the China Star (DJJ2) high-speed train set speed record of 292.8 km/h (181.9 mph) on the Qinshen Passenger Railway, but it was not ready for commercial use, and ultimately abandoned in favor of imported high speed train technology.

The development of HSR network in China was initially held up by a debate over the type of track technology. In June 1998, at a State Council meeting with the Chinese Academies of Chinese Academies of Sciences and Engineering, Premier Zhu Rongji asked whether the high speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai still being planned could use maglev technology.[21] At the time, planners were divided between using high-speed trains with wheels that run on conventional standard gauge tracks or magnetic levitation trains that run on special maglev tracks for a new national high-speed rail network.

Maglev received a big boost in 2000 when the Shanghai Municipal Government agreed to purchase a turnkey TransRapid train system from Germany for the 30.5 km (19.0 mi) rail link connecting Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the city. In 2004, the Shanghai Maglev Train became the world's first commercially-operated high-speed maglev. It remains the fastest commercial train in the world with peak speeds of 431 km/h (268 mph) and makes the 30.5 km (19.0 mi) in less than 7.5 minutes.

Despite unmatched advantage in speed, the maglev has not gained widespread use in China's high-speed rail network due to high cost, German refusal to share technology and concerns about safety. The price tag of the Shanghai Maglev was believed be $1.3 billion and was partially financed by the German government. The refusal of the Transrapid Consortium to share technology and source production in China made large scale-maglev production much more costly than high-speed train technology for conventional lines. Finally, residents living along the proposed maglev route have raised health concerns about electromagnetic radiation emitted by the trains. These concerns have prevented construction to begin on the proposed extension of the maglev to Hangzhou. Even the more modest plan to extend the maglev to Shanghai's other airport, Hongqiao, has been stalled. Instead, a conventional subway line was built to connect the two airports, and a conventional high-speed rail line was built between Shanghai and Hangzhou.

While the maglev was drawing attention to Shanghai, conventional track HSR technology was being tested on the newly-completed Qinhuangdao-Shenyang (Qinshen) Passenger Railway. This 405 km (252 mi) standard gauge, dual-track, electrified line was built between 1999 and 2003. In June 2002, a domestically-made DJF2 train set a record of 292.8 km/h (181.9 mph) on the track. The China Star (DJJ2) train followed the same September with a new record of 321 km/h (199 mph). The line supports commercial train service at speeds of 200–250 km/h, and has become a segment of the rail corridor between Beijing and the Northeast China. The Qinshen Line demonstrates the greater compatibility of HSR on conventional track with the rest of China's standard gauge rail network.

In 2006, the State Council in its Mid-to-Long Term Railway Development Plan, adopted conventional track HSR technology over maglev. This decision ended the debate cleared the way for rapid construction of standard gauge, passenger dedicated HSR lines in China.

Acquisition of foreign technology


Despite setting speed records on test tracks, the DJJ2, DJF2 and other domestically-produced high speed trains were insufficiently reliable for commercial operation.[22] The State Council turned to advanced technology abroad but made clear in directives that China's HSR expansion cannot only benefit foreign economies.[22] China's expansion must also be used to develop its own high-speed train building capacity through technology transfers. The State Council, MOR and state-owned train builders, the China North Car (CNR) and China South Car (CSR) used China's large market and competition among foreign train-makers to induce technology transfers.

In 2003, the MOR was believed to favor Japan's Shinkansen technology, especially the 700 series, which was later exported to Taiwan.[22] The Japanese government touted the 40-year track record of the Shinkansen and offered favorable financing. A Japanese report envisioned a winner-take all scenario in which the winning technology provider would supply China's trains for over 8,000 km of high-speed rail.[23] However, Chinese citizens angry with Japan's World War II atrocities organized a web campaign to oppose the awarding of HSR contracts to Japanese companies. The protests gathered over a million signatures and politicized the issue.[24] The MOR delayed the decision, broadened the bidding and adopted a diversified approach to adopting foreign high-speed train technology.

In June 2004, the MOR solicited bids to make 200 high speed train sets that can run 200 km/h.[22] Alstom of France, Siemens of Germany, Bombardier Transportation based in Germany and a Japanese consortium led by Kawasaki all submitted bids. With the exception of Siemens which refused to lower its demand of RMB(¥) 350 million per train set and €390 million for the technology transfer, the other three were all awarded portions of the contract.[22] All had to adapt their HSR train-sets to China's own common standard and assemble units through local joint ventures (JV) or cooperate with Chinese manufacturers. Bombardier, through its JV with CSR's Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co (CSR Sifang), Bombardier Sifang (Qingdao) Transportation Ltd (BST). won an order for 40 eight-car train sets based on Bombardier's Regina design.[25] These trains, designated CRH1A, were delivered in 2006. Kawasaki won an order for 60 train sets based on its E2 Series Shinkansen for ¥9.3 billion.[26] Of the 60 train sets, three were directly delivered from Nagoya, Japan, six were kits assembled at CSR Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock, and the remaining 51 were made in China using transferred technology with domestic and imported parts.[27] They are known as CRH2A. Alstom also won an order for 60 train sets based on the New Pendolino developed by Alstom-Ferroviaria in Italy. The order had a similar delivery structure with three shipped directly from Savigliano along with six kits assembled by CNR's Changchun Railway Vehicles, and the rest locally made with transferred technology and some imported parts.[28] Trains with Alstom technology carry the CRH5 designation.

The following year, Siemens reshuffled its bidding team, lowered prices, joined the bidding for 300 km/h trains and won a 60-train set order.[22] It supplied the technology for the CRH3C, based on the ICE3 (class 403) design, to CNR's Tangshan Railway Vehicle Co. Ltd. The transferred technology includes assembly, body, bogie, traction current transforming, traction transformers, traction motors, traction control, brake systems, and train control networks.

Technology transfer

Chinese designed CRH380A holds the world record for the fastest production train at 486.1 km/h.[29] It is the first high speed train developed by China.

Achieving indigenous high-speed rail technology has been a major goal of Chinese state planners. Chinese train-makers, after receiving transferred foreign technology, have been able to achieve a considerable degree of self-sufficiency in making the next generation of high-speed trains by developing indigenous capability to produce key parts and improvising upon foreign designs.

Examples of technology transfer include Mitsubishi Electric’s MT205 traction motor and ATM9 transformer to CSR Zhuzhou Electric, Hitachi’s YJ92A traction motor and Alstom’s YJ87A Traction motor to CNR Yongji Electric, Siemens’ TSG series pantograph to Zhuzhou Gofront Electric. Most of the components of the CRH trains manufactured by Chinese companies were from local suppliers, with only a few parts imported.[citation needed]

For foreign train-makers, technology transfer is an important part of gaining market access in China. Bombardier, the first foreign train-maker to form a joint venture in China, has been sharing technology for the manufacture of railway passenger cars and rolling stock since 1998. Zhang Jianwei, President and Chief Country Representative of Bombardier China, stated that in a 2009 interview, “Whatever technology Bombardier has, whatever the China market needs, there is no need to ask. Bombardier transfers advanced and mature technology to China, which we do not treat as an experimental market.”[30] Unlike other series which have imported prototypes, all CRH1 trains have been assembled at Bombardier’s joint-venture with CSR, Bombardier Sifang in Qingdao.

Kawasaki’s cooperation with CSR has not lasted as long. Within two years of cooperation with Kawasaki to produce 60 CRH2A sets, CSR began in 2008 to build CRH2B, CRH2C and CRH2E models at its Sifang plant independently without assistance from Kawasaki.[31] According to CSR president Zhang Chenghong, CSR "made the bold move of forming a systemic development platform for high-speed locomotives and further upgrading its design and manufacturing technology. Later, we began to independently develop high-speed CRH trains with a maximum velocity of 300–350 kilometers per hour, which eventually rolled off the production line in December 2007."[32] Since then, CSR has ended its cooperation with Kawasaki.[33] Kawasaki is currently challenging China's high-speed rail project for patent theft.[34]

Between June and September 2005, the Ministry of Railways launched bidding for high speed trains with a top speed of 350 km/h, as most of the main high speed rail lines were designed for top speeds of 350 km/h or higher. Along with CRH3C, produced by Siemens and CNR Tangshan, CSR Sifang bid 60 sets of CRH2C.

In 2007, travel time from Beijing to Shanghai was about 10 hours at a top speed of 200 km/h in the upgrade Beijing-Shanghai Railway. To increase transport capacity, the Ministry of Railways ordered 70 16-car trainsets from CSR Sifang and BST, including 10 sets of CRH1B and 20 sets of CRH2B seating trains, 20 sets of CRH1E and 20 sets of CRH2E sleeper trains.

Construction of the high-speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai, the world's first high speed rail with designed speed 380 km/h, began on April 18, 2008. In the same year, the Ministry of Science and the Ministry of Railway agreed to a joint action plan for the indigenous innovation of high-speed trains in China. The Railway Ministry then launched the CRH1-350 (Bombardier and BST, designated as CRH380D/DL), CRH2-350 (CSR, designated as CRH380A/AL), and CRH3-350 (CNR and Siemens, designated as CRH380B/BL & CRH380CL), to develop new generation of CRH trains with top operation speed 380 km/h. A total of 400 new generation trains were ordered. CRH380A entered service on the Shanghai-Hangzhou High-Speed Railway on October 26, 2010. The CRH380A is the first indigenous high speed train of the CRH series.[35]

On October 19, 2010, the Ministry of Railways declared the beginning of research and development on "super-speed" railway technology, which would increase the average speed of trains to over 500 kilometers per hour.[36]

Corruption and concerns

Then-Railway Minister Liu Zhijun hosting members of U.S. Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Edward Markey, in Beijing in 2009.

In February 2011, Railway Minister Liu Zhijun, a key proponent of HSR expansion in China, was removed from office on charges of corruption. The Economist estimates Liu accepted Y1 billion of bribes ($152 million) in connection with railway construction projects.[37] However only 3 million Yuan has been proven so far.[38] Investigators have found evidence that another Y187 million ($28.5 million) was misappropriated from the $33 billion Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway in 2010.[39] Another top official in the Railways Ministry, Zhang Shuguang, was also sacked for corruption according to the Economist.[37] There has not yet been any official release on why he was removed from his position.[40]

After the political shake-up, concerns about HSR safety, high ticket prices, financial sustainability and environmental impact received greater scrutiny in the Chinese press.[11][12] In April 2011, the new Minister of Railways Sheng Guangzu said that due to corruption, safety may have been compromised on some construction projects and completion dates may have to be pushed back.[37] In an interview the People's Daily, Sheng announced that all trains in the high speed rail network will be operated at a maximum speed of 300 km/h (186 mph).[11][41] This was in response to concerns over safety, low ridership due to high ticket prices,[42] and high energy usage.[12] On June 13, 2011, the Ministry of Railways clarified in a press conference that the speed reduction was not due to safety concerns but to offer more affordable tickets for trains at 250 km/h and increase ridership. Higher speed train travel uses greater energy and imposes more wear on expensive machinery. Railway officials chose to run faster trains at 300 km/h instead of 350 km/h to achieve closer train spacing and greater capacity utilization. Trains on the Beijing-Tianjin high-speed line and a few other inter-city lines will continue to run at a top speed of 350 km/h.[43] In May 2011, China's Environmental Protection Ministry ordered the halting of construction and operation of two high-speed lines that failed to pass environmental impact tests.[44][45] In June, the Railway Ministry maintained that high-speed rail construction is not slowing down.[46] CRH380A trainsets on the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway can reach a top operational speed of 380 km/h (240 mph) but run at 300 km/h.[6][7] Under pressure from all sides, the National Audit Office (NAO) carried out an extensive investigation into the building quality of all high speed rail lines. As of March 2011, no major quality defects had been found in the system.[47] Foreign manufacturers involved in Shanghai-Beijing high-speed link clearly stated in their contract that the maximum operational speed was 300km/h.[48] From July 20, 2011, the frequency of train service from Jinan to Beijing and Tianjin was reduced due to low occupancy renewing concerns about the demand and profitability for high speed services.[49] High numbers of service failures in the first month of operation drove passengers back to the existing slower rail services and air travel with airline ticket prices rising again from reduced competition.

2011 Wenzhou train accident

On July 23, 2011, two high-speed trains collided on the Ningbo–Taizhou–Wenzhou Railway in Lucheng District of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province. Several carriages derailed.[50] State-run Chinese media confirmed 40 deaths, and at least 192 people were hospitalised, including 12 who were severely injured.[51][52][53]

CPC General Secretary, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao called for "all-out efforts to rescue passengers". It was China’s first fatal high-speed rail accident. The Minister of Railways, Sheng Guangzu, went to the scene of the accident the following day. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao laid a wreath to commemorate the victims at the accident site. The Wenzhou train accident and the lack of accountability by railway officials caused a public uproar and heightened concerns about the safety of China's high-speed rail system.[54][55] Quality and safety concerns will likely have a serious impact on China's ambition to export cheap high speed train technology to other countries.[56]

The Wenzhou train collision had an immediate and major effect on China's high-speed rail program. The Chinese government formed a commission to investigate the accident with a directive to report its findings in September 2011.[57] On August 10, 2011, the Chinese government announced that it was suspending approvals of any new high-speed rail lines pending the outcome of the investigation.[58][59] The Minister of Railways announced further cuts in the speed of Chinese high-speed trains, with the speed of the second-tier 'D' trains reduced from 250 km/h (155 mph) to 200 km/h (124 mph).[60] The speed of the remaining 350 km/h trains between Shanghai and Hangzhou was reduced to 300 km/h as of August 28, 2011.[61] To stimulate ridership, on August 16, 2011 ticket prices on Chinese high-speed trains were reduced by 5 percent.[62] From July to September, high-speed rail ridership in China fell by nearly 30 million to 151 million trips.[15]

Current HSR expansion

China's high speed rail expansion is entirely managed, planned and financed by the government. After committing to conventional-track high speed rail in 2006, the state has embarked on an ambitious campaign to build passenger-dedicated high-speed rail lines, which accounts for a large part of the government's growing budget for rail construction. Total investment in new rail lines grew from $14 billion in 2004 to $22.7 and $26.2 billion in 2006 and 2007.[63] In response to the global economic recession, the government accelerated the pace of HSR expansion to stimulate economic growth. Total investments in new rail lines including HSR reached $49.4 billion in 2008 and $88 billion in 2009.[63] In all, the state plans to spend $300 billion to build a 25,000 km (16,000 mi) HSR network by 2020.[64][65]

The Dashengguan Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing (shown under construction in 2009) is a six-track railway bridge for the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu Railway, and Nanjing Subway.
Over 85% of track on the Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway is laid on viaducts. Chinese builders use elevated lines to keep high-speed rail tracks straight and level over uneven terrain, and to save on land acquisition costs.
A prefabricated section of the elevated track being installed on the Harbin-Dalian High Speed Railway in October 2010.

Policy justifications

Critics both in China and abroad have questioned the necessity of having an expensive high-speed rail system in a largely developing country, where most workers cannot afford to pay a premium for faster travel.[64][65] The government has justified the expensive undertaking as promoting a number of policy objectives. HSR provides fast, reliable and comfortable means of transporting large numbers of travelers in a densely populated country over long distances,[66] which:

  • Improves economic productivity and competitiveness over the long term by increasing the transport capacity of railways and linking labor markets.[65][67] Moving passengers to high speed lines frees up older railways to carry more freight, which is more profitable for railways than passengers, whose fares are subsidized.[66]
  • Stimulates the economy in the short term as HSR construction creates jobs and drives up demand for construction, steel and cement industries during the economic downturn. Work on the Beijing-Shanghai PDL mobilized 110,000 workers.[63][67][68]
  • Promotes the growth of urban centers and limits sprawl. High-speed rail links city centers, which are building subways. These measures alleviate traffic congestion.
  • Supports energy independence and environmental sustainability. Electric trains use less energy to transport people and goods on a per unit basis and can draw power from more diverse sources of energy including renewables than automobile and aircraft, which are more reliant on imported petroleum.[66]
  • Develop an indigenous high-speed rail equipment industry. The expansion into HSR is also developing China into a leading source of high-speed rail building technology.[63] Chinese train-makers have absorbed imported technologies quickly and localized production processes. Six years after receiving Kawasaki's license to produce Shinkansen E2, CSC Sifang can produce the CRH2A without Japanese input, and Kawasaki has ended cooperation with Sifang on high speed rail.[69] See sub-section on Technology Exports below on the expansion of China's High-Speed Rail industry overseas.

HSR construction financing

China's high-speed rail construction projects are highly capital intensive. About 40-50% of financing is provided by the national government through lending by state owned banks and financial institutions, another 40% by the bonds issued by the Ministry of Railway (MOR) and the remaining 10-20% by provincial and local governments.[14][66] The MOR, through its financing arm, the China Rail Investment Corp, issued an estimated ¥1 trillion (US$150 billion in 2010 dollars) in debt to finance HSR construction from 2006 to 2010,[70] including ¥310 billion in the first 10 months of 2010.[71] CRIC has also raised some capital through equity offerings; in the spring of 2010, CRIC sold a 4.5 percent stake in the Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway to the Bank of China for ¥6.6 billion and a 4.537 percent stake to the public for ¥6 billion.[70] CRIC retained 56.2 percent ownership on that line. As of 2010, the CRIC-bonds are considered to be relatively safe investments because they are backed by assets (the railways) and implicitly by the government.

The following table shows the construction cost of the HSR lines in operation.

Line Length

Total const. cost
(¥ billion)
Unit cost
(¥ million/km)
Qinshen PDL 404 250 15.7 38.9 [72]
Hening PDL 166 250 25 150.6 [73]
Jiaoji PDL 364 250 11 30.21 [74]
Shitai PDL 190 250 17.075 89.87 [75]
Hewu PDL 351 250 16.8 47.86 [76]
Yongtaiwen PFL 268 250 16.28 60.75 [77]
Wenfu PFL 298 250 18 60.4 [78]
Fuxia PFL 275 250 15.259 55.49 [79]
Chengguan PDL 65 250 13.3 204.62 [80]
Changjiu ICL 131 250 5.832 44.52 [81]
Changji ICL 111 250 9.6 86.49 [82]
Hainan ER ICL 308 250 20.2 65.58 [83]
Jingjin ICL 115 350 21.5 186.96 [84]
Wuguang PDL 968 350 116.6 120 [85]
Zhengxi PDL 455 350 35.31 77.6 [86]
Huning HSR 301 350 50 166.11 [87]
Huhang PDL 150 350 29.29 195.27 [88]
Jinghu HSR 1318 350 220.9 167.6 [89]
Workers on the Shenzhen section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong High-speed Railway in May 2011

Large construction debt-loads require significant revenues from rider fares, subsidies, and/or other sources of income, such as advertising, to repay. Despite impressive ridership figures, virtually every completed line has incurred losses in its first years of operation. For example, the Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway in its two full years of operation, delivered over 41 million rides. The line cost ¥20.42 billion to build, and ¥1.8 billion per annum to operate, including ¥0.6 billion in interest payments on its ¥10 billion of loan obligations.[90] The terms of the loans range from 5–10 years at interest rates of 6.3 to 6.8 percent.[90] In its first year of operation from August 1, 2008 to July 31, 2009, the line carried 18.7 million riders and generated ¥1.1 billion in revenues, which resulted in a loss of ¥0.7 billion. In the second year, ridership rose to 22.3 million and revenues improved to ¥1.4 billion, which narrowed losses somewhat to below ¥0.5 billion.[90] To break even, the line must deliver 30 million rides annually.[90] To be able to repay principal, ridership would need to exceed 40 million.[90] As of September 2010, daily ridership averaged 69,000 or an annual rate of 25.2 million.[90] The line has a capacity of delivering 100 million rides annually[91] and initial estimated repayment period of 16 years.[90]

The Shijiazhuang-Taiyuan PDL lost ¥0.8 billion in its first year and is set to lose ¥0.9 billion in 2010.[70] The Southeast HSR corridor lost ¥0.377 billion in its first year beginning August 2009.[70] The Zhengzhou-Xian PDL since opening in February 2010 is expected to generate revenues of ¥0.6 billion in its first full year but must make interest payments of ¥1.1 billion. All of these losses must be covered by the operator, which is usually subsidized by local governments.[91]

The MOR faces a debt-repayment peak in 2014.[70] Some economists recommend further subsidies to lower fares and boost ridership and ultimately revenues.[91] Others warn that the financing side of the existing construction and operation model is unsustainable.[91] If the rail-backed loans cannot be fully repaid, they may be refinanced or the banks may seize ownership of the railways.[70] To prevent that eventuality, the MOR is trying to improve management of its rapidly growing HSR holdings.[70]

Slowdown in financing and construction

In the first half of 2011, the MOR as a whole made a profit of ¥4.29 billion and carried a total debt burden of ¥2.09 trillion, equal to about 5% of China’s GDP.[92][93] Earnings from the more profitable freight lines helped to off-set losses by high-speed rail lines. As of years ending 2008, 2009 and 2010, the MOR's debt-to-asset ratio was respectively, 46.81%, 53.06% and 57.44%,[94] and reached 58.58% by mid-year 2011.[14] As of October 12, 2011, the MOR had issued ¥160 billion of new debt for the year.[93] However, most rail construction projects rely on joint-financing by state banks and sharp cut-backs in lending by state banks have sharply reduced funding for existing railway projects. An investigation of 23 railway construction companies in August revealed that 70% of existing projects had been slowed or halted mainly due to shortage of funding.[14] Affected lines include Xiamen-Shenzhen, Nanning-Guangzhou, Guiyang-Guangzhou, Shijazhuang-Wuhan, Tianjin-Baoding and Shanghai-Kunming high-speed rail lines.[92][15] By October, work had halted on the construction of 10,000 km of track.[15] As planned funding for future years is being reduced, new projects are put on hold and completion dates for existing projects, including the Tianjin-Baoding, Harbin-Jiamusi, Zhengzhou-Xuzhou and Hainan Ring (West), are being pushed back.[14] As of October 2011, the MOR is reportedly concentrating remaining resources on fewer high-speed rail lines and shifting emphasis to more economically-viable coal transporting heavy rail.[93] To ease the credit shortage facing rail construction, the Ministry of Finance announced tax cuts to interest earned on rail construction financing bonds and the State Council ordered state banks to renew lending to rail projects.[15]

Track Network

Maps of China's existing and planned high-speed rail network

Map showing the rail network of mainland China and Taiwan with high-speed lines highlighted in color according to the speed of train service.
Map showing China's planned high-speed rail lines that form the national grid.

China's high-speed rail system project is ambitious[95] and when the major rail lines are completed by 2020, it will become the largest, fastest, and most technologically advanced high-speed railway system in the world.[68] China's Ministry of Railways plans to build 25,000 km (16,000 mi) of high-speed railways with trains reaching speeds of 350 km/h.[68][96] China invested $50 billion on its high-speed rail system in 2009 and the total construction cost of the high-speed rail system is $300 billion.[68] The main operator of regular high-speed train services in the People's Republic of China is China Railway High-Speed (CRH).

China's conventional high-speed railway network is made up of four components:

  1. upgraded pre-existing rail lines that can accommodate high-speed trains,
  2. a national grid of mostly passenger dedicated HSR lines (PDLs),
  3. other newly-built conventional rail lines, mostly in western China, that can carry high-speed passenger and freight trains, and
  4. certain regional "intercity" HSR lines.

Most of the rail lines in the latter three categories are now under construction.[97]

Upgraded railways

Following the sixth round of the "railway speed up campaign" on April 18, 2007, some 6,003 extended km of track could carry trains at speeds of up to 200 km/h. Of these, 848 km could attain 250 km/h. These include the Qinhuangdao-Shenyang (Qinshen) Passenger Railway, and sections of the Qingdao-Jinan (Jiaoji), Shanghai-Kunming (Hukun) between Hangzhou and Zhuzhou, Guangzhou-Shenzhen (Guangshen), Beijing-Shanghai (Jinghu), Beijing-Harbin (Jingha), Beijing-Guangzhou (Jingguang), Longhai between Zhengzhou to Xuzhou, Railways. Upgrade work continues on other lines including the Wuhan-Danyang (Handan), Hunan-Guizhou (Xianggui), and Nanjing-Nantong (Ningqi) Railways.

295 stations have been built or renovated to allow high speed trains.[98]

National high-speed rail grid (4+4)

The centerpiece of the Ministry of Railway (MOR)'s expansion into high-speed rail is a new national high-speed rail grid that is overlaid onto the existing railway network. According to the MOR's "Mid-to-Long Term Railway Network Plan" (revised in 2008), this grid is composed of 8 high-speed rail corridors, four running north-south and four going east-west, and has a total of 12,000 km. Most of the new lines follow the routes of existing trunk lines and are designated for passenger travel only. They are known as passenger-designated lines (PDL). Several sections of the national grid, especially along the southeast coastal corridor, were built to link cities, which had no previous rail connections. Those sections will carry a mix of passenger and freight, but are sometimes mislabeled as PDLs. High-speed trains on PDLs can generally reach 300–350 km/h. On mixed-use HSR lines, passenger train service can attain peak speeds of 200–250 km/h. This ambitious national grid project was planned to be built by 2020, but the government's stimulus has expedited time-tables considerably for many of the lines.

The Jinqin Passenger Railway (Tianjin-Qinhuangdao) and Qinshen Passenger Railway (Qinhuangdao-Shenyang) are technically not part of the 8 main lines, but they serve to link the Beijing-Harbin PDL and Beijing-Shanghai PDL, and are included in this section.

Four North-South HSR corridors and constituent lines

Operational lines are marked with green background.

[corridor map]
Route Description Designed


Start Date

Open Date
Beijing-Harbin Line.png
Beijing-Harbin PDL
(Jingha Passenger Designated Line)
main HSR corridor of Northeast China, consisting of the Beijing-Shenyang & Harbin-Dalian PDLs and the Panjin-Yinkou spur. 350 1700 2007-08-23 postponed
Beijing-Shenyang PDL
(Jingshen Passenger Designated Line)
Beijing-Shenyang segment of Jingha PDL, via Chengde, Fuxin and Chaoyang 350 684 postponed postponed
Harbin-Dalian PDL
(Hada Passenger Designated Line)
PDL from Harbin to Dalian via Shenyang & Changchun 350 904 2007-08-23 2011-10
Panjin-Yingkou PDL
(Panying Passenger Designated Line)
Connects Yingkou to Qinhuangdao-Shenyang HSR at Panjin 350 89 2009-05-31 2012
Beijing-Shanghai Line.png
Beijing-Shanghai HSR
(Jinghu High-Speed Railway)
Main north-south high speed railway of East China, connecting Beijing, Jinan, Tai'an, Xuzhou, Bengbu, Nanjing & Shanghai 380 1302 2008-04-18 2011-06-30
Hefei-Bengbu PDL
(Hebeng Passenger Designated Line)
Extends Jinghu PDL from Bengbu to Hefei 350 131 2008-01-08 2011–12
Beijing-Hong Kong Line.png
Beijing-Guangzhou PDL
(Jinggang Passenger Designated Line)
Main north-south high speed rail corridor through North and Central China, consisting of four segments between Beijing, Shijiazhuang, Wuhan, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. 200-
2229 2005-09-01 2012
Beijing-Shijiazhuang PDL
(Jingshi Passenger Designated Line)
HSR from Beijing to Shijiazhuang 350 281 2008-10-08 2012-10-01
Shijiazhuang-Wuhan PDL
(Shiwu Passenger Designated Line)
HSR from Shijiazhuang to Wuhan via Zhengzhou 350 838 2008-10-15 2012-10-01
Wuhan-Guangzhou PDL
(Wuguang Passenger Designated Line)
HSR from Wuhan to Guangzhou via Changsha 350 968 2005-09-01 2009-12-26
Shanghai-Shenzhen Line.png
Southeast Coast HSR Corridor
HSR linking coastal cities from Shanghai to Hangzhou to Shenzhen, built in five segments, with plans for a rail bridge linking Shanghai and Ningbo across the Hangzhou Bay by 2020.[100] 200-
1450 2005-08-01 2011
Hangzhou-Ningbo PDL
(Hangyong Passenger Designated Line)
High-speed PDL from Hangzhou to Ningbo 350 152 2009-04 2011–12
Ningbo–Taizhou–Wenzhou Railway
(Yongtaiwen Line)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR line along the coast of Zhejiang Province. 250 268 2005-10-27 2009-09-28
Wenzhou–Fuzhou Railway
(Wenfu Line)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR line from Wenzhou to Fuzhou. 250 298 2005-01-08 2009-09-28
Fuzhou–Xiamen Railway
(Fuxia Line)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR line along the coast of Fujian Province from Fuzhou to Xiamen via Putian & Quanzhou. 250 275 2005-10-01 2010-04-26
Xiamen–Shenzhen Railway
(Xiashen Line)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR line along the coast of Fujian and Guangdong via Zhangzhou, Shantou & Huizhou. 250 502 2007-11-23 late 2012

Four East-West HSR corridors and constituent lines

Operational lines are marked with green background.

[corridor map]
Route Description Designed


Start Date

Open Date
Qingdao-Taiyuan Line.png
Qingdao-Taiyuan PDL
(Qingtai Passenger Designated Line)
HSR across North China consisting of three segments connecting Taiyuan, Shijiazhuang, Jinan and Qingdao. 250 873 2005-06-01 2012
Qingdao-Jinan PDL
(Jiaoji Line)
PDL connecting Qingdao and Jinan 250 364 2007-01-28 2008-12-20
Shijiazhuang-Jinan PDL
(Shiji Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Shijiazhuang & Jinan via Dezhou 250 319 postponed postponed
Shijiazhuang-Taiyuan PDL
(Shitai Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Shijiazhuang & Taiyuan. 250 190 2005-06-11 2009-04-01
Xuzhou-Lanzhou Line.png
Xuzhou-Lanzhou PDL
(Xulan Passenger Designated Line)
HSR across the Yellow River Valley of central China, consisting of four segments connecting Xuzhou, Zhengzhou, Xian, Baoji and Lanzhou. 350 1363 2005-06-01
Zhengzhou-Xuzhou PDL
(Zhengxu Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Xuzhou & Zhengzhou 350 357 2010 2013
Zhengzhou-Xian PDL
(Zhengxi Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Zhengzhou & Xian 350 455 2005-09-01 2010-02-06
Xian-Baoji PDL
(Xibao Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Xian & Baoji 350 148 2009-11-22 2012
Baoji-Lanzhou PDL
(Baolan Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Baoji & Lanzhou 350 403 planning planning
Shanghai-Chengdu Line.png
Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu HSR Corridor
(Huhanrong High-Speed Rail Corridor)
HSR corridor through the Yangtze Valley, consisting of the Shanghai-Nanjing section of the Beijing-Shanghai PDL, and 7 mixed-use HSR segments connecting Nanjing, Hefei, Wuhan, Yichang, Lichuan, Chongqing, Suining & Chengdu. 200-
2078 2003-12-01 2012
Hefei-Nanjing HSR
(Hening HSR)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR connecting Nanjing & Hefei 250 166 2005-06-11 2008-04-19
Hefei-Wuhan Railway
(Hewu Passenger Designated Line)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR connecting Hefei & Wuhan 250 351 2005-08-01 2009-04-01
Hankou-Yichang Railway
(Hanyi Line)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR connecting Wuhan & Yichang 250 293 2008-09-17 2012-01-01
Yichang-Wanzhou Railway
(Yiwan Railway, Yichang-Lichuan section)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR connecting Yichang & Lichuan[101] 200 377 2003-12-01 2010-12-23
Chongqing-Lichuan Railway
(Yuli Line)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR connecting Lichuan & Chongqing 200 264 2008-12-29 2012
Suining-Chongqing Railway*
(Suiyu Line)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR connecting Chongqing & Suining 200 132 2009-01-18 2012–01
Dazhou-Chengdu Railway*
(Dacheng Railway, Suining-Chengdu section)
Mixed passenger & freight HSR connecting Suining & Chengdu. 200 148 2005-05 2009-06-30
Shanghai-Kunming Line.png
Shanghai-Kunming PDL
(Shanghai-Kunming Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting East, Central and Southwest China. It consists of three sections connecting Shanghai, Hangzhou, Changsha and Kunming. 350 2066 2008-12-28 2013-06-30[102]
Shanghai-Hangzhou PDL
(Huhang Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Shanghai Hongqiao & Hangzhou East. 350 150 2009-02-26 2010-10-26
Hangzhou-Changsha PDL
(Hangchang Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Hangzhou & Changsha. 350 926 2009-12-22 2013-06-30
Changsha-Kunming PDL
(Changkun Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Changsha & Kunming 350 1175 2010-03-26 2013-06-30

Other high-speed rail lines

According to the "Mid-to-Long Term Railway Network Plan" (revised in 2008), the MOR plans to build over 40,000 km of railway in order to expand the railway network in western China and to fill gaps in the networks of eastern and central China. Some of these new railways are being built to accommodate speeds of 200~250 km/h for both passengers and freight. These are also considered high-speed rail though they are not part of the national PDL grid or Intercity High Speed Rail.

Other high speed passenger designated railways

Operational lines are marked with green background.

[corridor map]
Route Description Designed


Start Date

Open Date
Guangzhou Shenzhen Hongkong Express Rail Link en.svg
Guangzhou-Hong Kong PDL(Jinggang Passenger Designated Line)
Main HSR corridor on east side of the Pearl River Delta, consisting of two segments between Guangzhou and Hong Kong. 200-
142 2008-08-20 2016
Guangshengang XRL
(Mainland Section)
HSR from Guangzhou to Shenzhen 350 116 2008-08-20 2011-08-08[103]
Guangshengang XRL
(Hong Kong Section)
HSR from Shenzhen to Hong Kong 200 26 2010 2016
Tianjin-Shenyang Line.png
Tianjin-Shenyang PDL
(Jinshen Passenger Designated Line)
Originally part of the Jingha PDL. An important linkage between Tianjin and Shenyang through Qinhuangdao. 250 665 1999 2012
Tianjin-Qinhuangdao PDL
(Jinqin Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Tianjin & Qinhuangdao. 350 261 2008 2012
Qinhuangdao-Shenyang PDL
(Qinshen Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Qinhuangdao & Shenyang. 250 404 1999 2003-07-01
Chengdu-Guangzhou Line.png
Chengdu-Guangzhou PDL (Chengguang Passenger Designated Line)
HSR from the Pearl River Delta to the Sichuan Basin via Guiyang & Guilin. 300–350 1376 2008-10-13 2014
Chengdu-Guiyang PDL
(Chenggui Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Chengdu & Guiyang via Leshan, Yibin & Bijie. 350 519 2010 2014
Guiyang-Guangzhou PDL
(Guiguang Passenger Designated Line)
PDL connecting Guiyang & Guangzhou. 300 857 2008-10-13 2014
Lanzhou-Ürümqi Line.png
Lanzhou-Xinjiang PDL
(Lanxin Passenger Designated Line)
HSR from Lanzhou to Ürümqi via Xining & Zhangye, Jiuquan, Jiayuguan, Hami & Turpan 300 1776 2010 2014
Hefei-Fuzhou Line.png
Hefei-Fuzhou PDL
(Hefu Passenger Designated Line)
HSR from the Hefei to Fuzhou via Huangshan, Shangrao & Wuyishan. 250 806 2010-04-27 2014
Datong-Xian PDL
(Daxi Passenger Designated Line)
HSR from Datong to Xi'an via Taiyuan. 250 859 2009-12-03 2013
Xian-Chengdu HSR
(Xicheng High-Speed Railway)
HSR from Xian to Chengdu via Hanzhong and Guangyuan. 250 510 2010 2015
Shangqiu-Hangzhou PDL
(Shanghang Passenger Designated Line)
HSR from Shangqiu to Hangzhou via Fuyang Hefei & Wuhu. 350 770 2010?
Yunnan-Guangxi HSR
(Yungui High-speed railway)
HSR from Nanning to Kunming via Bose. 200–250 710 2010-12-27 2016[104]
Tianjin-Baoding HSR
(Jinbao High-speed railway)
HSR from Tianjin to Baoding via Bazhou & Baiyangdian. 250 158 2011-03-18 2013[105]
Nanjing–Hangzhou HSR
(Ninghang High-Speed Railway)
HSR from Nanjing to Hangzhou via Liyang, Yixing and Huzhou. 350 249 2008-12-27 2011-12-31[106]
A map showing the projected high-speed rail network in China by 2020 and the travel time by rail from Beijing to each of the provincial capitals.
Class I high speed railways
Lines Length (km) Design Speed (km/h) Construction Start Date Open Date
Longyan-Xiamen Railway 171 200 2006-12-25 2012
Xiangtang (Nanchang)-Putian (Fuzhou) Railway 604 250 2007-11-23 2011
Nanping-Sanming-Longyan Railway 247 250 2010-12-25 2014 [107]
Guangzhou-Nanning Railway 577 250 2008-09-11 2013
Under planning

Intercity high-speed rail

Map showing some of China's intercity railways, including lines already operational (red) and lines under construction.
Construction of the Hainan East Ring Intercity Rail in 2009.

Intercity railways are designed to provide regional high-speed rail service between large cities and metropolitan areas that are generally within the same province. Intercity HSR service speeds range from 200 to 350 km/h.

Construction schedule Operational lines are marked with green background.

Line Length
Design Speed
Construction Start Date
Open Date
Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Rail 115 350 2005-04-07 2008-08-01
Chengdu-Dujiangyan High-Speed Railway 65 220 2008-11-04 2010-05-12
Shanghai–Nanjing High-Speed Railway 301 350 2008-07-01 2010-07-01
Nanchang-Jiujiang Intercity Rail 131 250 2007-06-28 2010-09-20
Hainan East Ring Intercity Rail 308 250 2007-09-29 2010-12-30
Changchun-Jilin Intercity Rail 111 250 2007-05-13 2010-12-30[108]
Guangzhou-Zhuhai Intercity Mass Rapid Transit 117 200 2005-12-18 2011-01-07
Nanjing-Anqing Intercity Rail 257 250 2008-12-28 2012-06
Nanjing–Hangzhou Intercity Rail 251 350 2008-12-28 2012-12-28
Jiangyou-Mianyang-Chengdu-Leshan Intercity Rail 319 200 2008-12-30 2012-12-30
Wuhan Megalopolis Intercity Rail
Wuhan-Xiaogan, Huangshi, Xianning and Huanggang)
160 200 2009-03-22 2011-10-01, 2013
Beijing-Tangshan Intercity Rail 160 350 2009 2012
Tianjin-Baoding Intercity Rail 145 250 2009 2012
Qingdao-Rongcheng Intercity Rail 299 250 2009-11-30 2012-12
Harbin-Qiqihar Intercity Rail 286 250 2008-11-25 2011
Beijing-Zhangjiakou Intercity Rail 174 200 2009 2014[109]
Chongqing-Wanzhou Intercity Rail 250 350 2009 2013
Shenyang-Dandong Intercity Rail 208 350 2009 2013-9
Chengdu-Chongqing Intercity Rail 305 300 2009 2014
Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan Intercity Rail 95.5 200 2010-07-02 2014-07-02
Hangzhou-Huangshan High Speed Railway 262 250 2010-xx-xx 2013-xx-xx


China Railways, the MOR's national rail service operator, provides high speed train service called China Railway High-speed (CRH) (中国铁路高速) on upgraded conventional rail lines, national high speed railways and intercity high-speed lines. The CRH's high speed trains are also called "Harmony Express." In October 2010, CRH service more than 1,000 trains per day, with a daily ridership of about 925,000.[110] as of January, 2011, a total of 495 CRH trainsets were put in to use.


Annual Ridership figures (in mlns of passengers)
2007 2008 2009 2010
Ridership of CRH service 61.21 127.73 179.58 290.54

CRH service on upgraded conventional lines

CRH service on the upgraded Xiaoshan-Ningbo Railway.

As of September 2010, there are 2,876 km of upgraded conventional railways in China that can accommodate trains running speeds of 200 to 250 km/h.[111] Over time with the completion of the national high-speed passenger-dedicated rail network, more CRH service will shift from these lines to the high-speed dedicated lines.

A. Intercity service (typically, listed in schedules as C-series or D-series trains):

B. Long-haul service (typically, listed in schedules as G-series or D-series trains):

The table belows lists the upgraded conventional railways that run 10 or more CRH high speed trains per day.

Route Railway distance Trains per day[112]
(aggregation of both direction)
Trains in service
Guangzhou-Shenzhen Guangshen line 147 km[113] 220 CRH1A
Ningbo-Hangzhou Hangning line 149 km[114] 50 CRH1A/B/E CRH2A/B/E
Beijing-Shijiazhuang Jingguang line 277 km[115] 46 CRH2A CRH5A
Beijing-Shenyang Jingha line 703 km[116] 24 CRH5A
Beijing-Jinan Jinghu line 495 km[117] 22 CRH2A CRH5A
Chongqing-Chengdu Chengyu line & Dacheng line 315 km[118] 22 CRH1A
Beijing-Shanghai Jinghu line 1454 km[119] 18 CRH1E CRH2E
Wuhan-Nanchang Wujiu line & Changjiu PDL 337 km[120] 16 CRH2A
Shijiazhuang-Zhengzhou Jingguang line 412 km[121] 14 CRH2A

CRH service on high speed lines

The following table lists the frequency of CRH service on 14 HSR lines (as of February, 2011). In some cases, CRH trains must still share the HSR lines with slower, non-high speed trains, which are not listed in the table. Note China's first HSR, the Qinshen PDL service as part of the Jingha Railway.

(main line)
Travel time
(By fastest train)
Trains per day[112]
(aggregation of both direction)
Designed speed Trains in service
Jinghu HSR
1318 km 4h 48m[122] 180 380 km/h
Opening speed 310 km/h
Wuguang PDL
968 km 3h 33m[123] 216 350 km/h CRH2C CRH3C[124] CRH380A/AL
Huhang PDL
169 km (Shanghai Hongqiao – Hangzhou) 45min[125] 168[126] 350 km/h CRH1A/B/E CRH2A/B/C/E
CRH3C CRH380A/AL CRH380BL[127]
Huning PDL
296 km (Shanghai Hongqiao – Nanjing) 1h 13min[128] 238[126] 350 km/h CRH1A/B CRH2A/B/C
CRH3C CRH380A/AL CRH380BL[129][130]
Jingjin ICL
117 km 30min[131] 200[132] 350 km/h CRH3C[133]
Zhengxi PDL
456 km 1h 50min[134] 28 350 km/h CRH2C[135]
Yongtaiwen PFL
268 km 1h 13min[136] 64 250 km/h CRH1B/E CRH2A/B/E[137]
Wenfu PFL
298 km 1h 23min[138] 42 250 km/h CRH1A/B/E CRH2A/B/E[139]
Shitai PDL
190 km (Shijiazhuang North–Taiyuan) 1h 6min[140] 26 250 km/h CRH5A[141]
Fuxia PFL
275 km 1h 21min[142] 118 250 km/h CRH1A/B/E CRH2A/E[139]
Changjiu ICL
135 km 45min[143] 42 250 km/h CRH1A CRH2A[144]
Hewu PFL
351 km 1h 58min[145] 38 250 km/h CRH1A/B CRH2A/B[146]
Jiaoji PDL
362 km 2h 13min[147] 42 250 km/h CRH2A CRH5A[148]
Hening PFL
156 km 54min[149] 12 250 km/h CRH1A/B CRH2A/B[146]
Chengguan PDL
67 km 30min[150] 36 250 km/h CRH1A[151]
Changji ICL
111 km 34min[152] 50 250 km/h CRH5A
Hainan ER ICL
308 km 1h 22min[153] 44 250 km/h CRH1A
Guangzhu MRT
(Guangzhou-Zhuhai main line)
93 km 45min[154] 76 200 km/h CRH1A
Guangzhu MRT
(Guangzhou-Xinhui branch line)
72 km 45min[155] 46 200 km/h CRH1A


Rolling stock

Two coupled 8-car CRH1A electric multiple unit train sets in Nanchang.
First class cabin inside Beijing-Tianjin Intercity CRH3 Train.
A coach compartment inside a CRH1 train.
CRH service on the Shanghai–Nanjing High-Speed Railway.

China Railway High-speed runs different electric multiple unit (trainsets), the designs of which all are imported from other nations and given the designations CRH-1 through CRH-5. CRH trainsets are intended to provide fast and convenient travel between cities. Some of the trainsets are manufactured locally through technology transfer, a key requirement for China. The signalling, track and support structures, control software and station design are developed domestically with foreign elements as well, so the system as a whole could be called Chinese. China currently holds many new patents related to the internal components of these train sets since they have re-designed major components so the trains can run at a much higher speed than the original foreign train design.

  • CRH1 produced by Bombardier's joint venture Sifang Power (Qingdao) Transportation (BST), CRH1A & CRH1B, nickname "Metro" or "Bread", derived from Bombardier Regina, CRH1E, nickname "Lizard", is Bombardier's ZEFIRO 250 design.
    • CRH1A; sets consists of 8 cars; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h.
    • CRH1B; a modified 16-cars version; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h.
    • CRH1E; is a 16-car high-speed sleeper version; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h.
  • CRH2; nickname "Hairtail" derived from E2 Series 1000 Shinkansen.
    • CRH2A; In 2006, China has unveiled (CRH2), a modified version of the Japanese Shinkansen E2-1000 series. An order for 60 8-car sets had been placed in 2004, with the first few built in Japan, the rest produce by Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock in China.[156]
    • CRH2B; a modified 16-cars version of CRH2; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h.
    • CRH2C (Stage one); a modified version of CRH2 has maximum operating speed up to 300 km/h by replacing two intermediate trailer cars with motored cars.
    • CRH2C (Stage two); a modified version of CRH2C (Stage one version) has maximum operating speed up to 350 km/h by replacing motors with more powerful ones.
    • CRH2E; a modified 16-cars version of CRH2 with sleeping cars.
  • CRH3C; nickname "Rabbit", derived from Siemens ICE3 (class 403); 8 car sets; maximum operating speed of 350 km/h
  • CRH5A, derived from Alstom Pendolino ETR600; 8 car sets; maximum operating speed of 250 km/h[157]
  • CRH6; Designed by CSR Puzhen and CSR Sifang, will be manufactured by CSR Jiangmen, it is designed to have two versions, top operating speed of 220 km/h version and top operating speed of 160 km/h version, will be used at 200 km/h or 250 km/h Inter-city High Speed Rail lines, planned to enter service by 2011.
  • CRH380A; Maximum operating speed of 380 km/h; Manufacturer by Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock; entered service in 2010.
  • CRH380B; upgraded version of CRH3; maximum operating speed of 380 km/h, manufactured by Tangshan Railway Vehicle & Changchun Railway Vehicles; entered service in 2011.
  • CRH380CL; Designed and manufactured by Changchun Railway Vehicles maximum operating speed of 380 km/h, planned to enter service in 2012.
  • CRH380D; also named Zefiro 380; maximum operating speed of 380 km/h; manufactured by Bombardier Sifang (Qingdao) Transportation Ltd. (BST); planned to enter service in 2012.

CRH1A, B,E, CRH2A, B,E, and CRH5A are designed for a maximum operating speed (MOR) of 200 km/h and can reach up to 250 km/h. CRH3C and CRH2C designs have an MOR of 300 km/h, and can reach up to 350 km/h, with a top testing speed more than 380 km/h. However, in practical terms, issues such as cost of maintenance, comfort, cost and safety make the maximum design speed of more than 380 km/h impractical and remain limiting factors.

Equipment type Top speed in test Designed speed Seating capacity Formation Power
(under 25 kV)
Enter Service
CRH1A 278 km/h (173 mph) 250 668 or 611 or 645 5M3T 5,300 kW 2007
CRH1B 292 km/h (181 mph) 250 1299 10M6T 11,000 kW 2009
CRH1E 250 618 or 642 10M6T 11,000 kW 2009
CRH2A 282 km/h (175 mph) 250 610 or 588 4M4T 4,800 kW 2007
CRH2B 275 km/h (171 mph) 250 1230 8M8T 9,600 kW 2008
CRH2C Stage 1 394.2 km/h (244.9 mph) 300 610 6M2T 7,200 kW 2008
CRH2C Stage 2 350 610 6M2T 8,760 kW 2010
CRH2E 250 630 8M8T 9,600 kW 2008
CRH3C 394.3 km/h (245.0 mph) 350 600 or 556 4M4T 8,800 kW 2008
CRH5A 250 622 or 586 or 570 5M3T 5,500 kW 2007
CRH380A 416.6 km/h (258.9 mph) 380 494 6M2T 9,600 kW 2010
CRH380AL 486.1 km/h (302.0 mph) 380 1027 14M2T 20,440 kW 2010
CRH380B 380 unknown 4M4T 9,200 kW 2011 (plan)
CRH380BL 487.3 km/h (302.8 mph) 380 1004 8M8T 18,400 kW 2010 (plan)
CRH380CL 380 8M8T 2012 (plan)
CRH380D 380 495 5M3T 10,000 kW 2012 (plan)
CRH380DL 380 1013 10M6T 20,000 kW 2012 (plan)
CRH6 220 586 4M4T unknown 2011 (plan)

Chinese MOR CRH trainsets order timetable

Date Factory Speed Level Type Quantity


Oct 10, 2004[158] Alstom 250 km/h CRH5A 3 24 620 million EUR
CNR Changchun 57 456
Oct 12, 2004[159] BST (Bombardier & CSR) 250 km/h CRH1A 20 160 350 million USD
Oct 20, 2004[160] Kawasaki 250 km/h CRH2A 3 24 9,300 million RMB
CSR Sifang 57 456
May 30, 2005[161] BST 250 km/h CRH1A 20 160 350 million USD
June 2005[160] CSR Sifang 300 km/h CRH2C Stage one 30 240 8,200 million RMB
350 km/h CRH2C Stage two 30 240
Nov 20, 2005[162] Siemens 350 km/h CRH3C 3 24 13,000 million RMB
CNR Tangshan 57 456
Oct 31, 2007[163] BST 250 km/h CRH1B 20 320 1,000 million EUR
CRH1E 20 320
Nov 2007[164] CSR Sifang 250 km/h CRH2B 10 160 1,200 million RMB
Nov 2007[160] CSR Sifang 250 km/h CRH2E 6 96 900 million RMB
Dec 6, 2008[160] CSR Sifang 250 km/h CRH2E 14 224 2,100 million RMB
Sep 23, 2009[165] CNR Changchun 250 km/h CRH5A 30 240 4,800 million RMB
Mar 16, 2009[166] CNR Tangshan 380 km/h CRH380BL 70 1,120 39,200 million RMB
CNR Changchun 30 480
Sep 28, 2009[167] CSR Sifang 380 km/h CRH380A 40 320 45,000 million RMB
CRH380AL 100 1,600
Sep 28, 2009[167] BST 380 km/h CRH380D 20 160 27,400 million RMB
CRH380DL 60 960
Sep 28, 2009[168] CNR Changchun 380 km/h CRH380B 40 320 23,520 million RMB
CRH380BL 15 240
CRH380CL 25 400
Sep 28, 2009[169] CNR Tangshan 350 km/h CRH3C[170] 20 160 3,920 million RMB
Dec 30, 2009[171] CSR Puzhen 220 km/h CRH6 24 192 2,346 million RMB
July 16, 2010[172] BST 250 km/h CRH1A 40 320 5,200 million RMB
Sep 14, 2010[173] CSR Sifang 250 km/h CRH2A 40 320 3,400 million RMB
Oct 13, 2010[174] CNR Changchun 250 km/h CRH5A 20 160 2,700 million RMB
Apr 26, 2011 CNR Changchun 250 km/h CRH5A 30 240 3,870 million RMB
Total 954 10,352

Chinese CRH trainsets delivery timetable

Based on data published by Sinolink Securities,[175][176] some small changes were made according to the most recent news.

Type 2006 2007 2008 2009



CRH1A 8 18 12 2 20 20 80
CRH2A 19 41 15 25 100
CRH5A 27 29 4 30 20 30 140
CRH1B 4 9 7 20
CRH1E 3 8 9 20
CRH2B 10 10
CRH2E 6 14 20
CRH2C 10 20 30 60
CRH3C 7 36 37 80
CRH380A 40 40
CRH380AL 6 94 100
CRH380B 20 201 40
CRH380BL 11 49 551 115
CRH380CL 251 25
CRH380D 202 20
CRH380DL 602 60
CRH6 24 24
Total 27 86 78 88 204 261 210 954
Cumulative 27 113 191 279 483 744 954 954
  • ^1 All CRH380B and CRH380C units to be delivered before 2012.
  • ^2 All CRH380D units to be delivered before 2014.

Track technology

Ballastless tracks in China.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev aboard a high-speed train in Hainan in April 2011.

Many of the Passenger Designated Lines use ballastless tracks, which allow for smoother train rides at high speeds and can withstand heavy use without warping. The ballastless track technology, imported from Germany, carries higher upfront costs but can reduce maintenance costs.[177][178]

Typical application of track technology in China high speed lines

Type Classify Technology line
CRTSIs slab track RTRI, Japan Hada PDL
CRTSIIs slab track Max Bögl, Germany Jingjin ICL
CRTSIIIs slab track CRCC,China Chengguan PDL
CRTSIb ballastless track Rail.one, Germany Wuguang PDL
CRTSIIb ballastless track Züblin, Germany Zhengxi PDL

Technology export

Chinese train-makers and rail builders have signed agreements to build HSRs in Turkey, Venezuela and Argentina[179] and are bidding on HSR projects in the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil (São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro) and Myanmar, and other countries.[64] They are competing directly with the established European and Japanese manufacturers, and sometimes partnering with them. In Saudi Arabia's Haramain High Speed Rail Project, Alstom partnered with China Railway Construction Corp. to win the contract to build phase I of the Mecca to Medina HSR line, and Siemens has joined CSR to bid on phase II.[180] China is also competing with Japan, Germany, South Korea, Spain, France and Italy to bid for California's high-speed rail line project, which would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.[181] In November 2009, the MOR signed preliminary agreements with the state's high speed rail authority and General Electric (GE) under which China would license technology, provide financing and furnish up to 20 percent of the parts with the remaining sourced from American suppliers, and final assembly of the rolling stock in the United States.[182]

Maglev high speed rail

China has the world's only maglev high-speed train line in operation: The Shanghai Maglev Train, a turnkey Transrapid maglev demonstration line 30.5 km long. The trains have a top operational speed of 430 km/h and can reach a top non-commercial speed of 501 km/h. It has shuttled passengers between Shanghai's Longyang Road Metro Station and Shanghai Pudong International Airport since March, 2004. Service was briefly interrupted by an electrical fire in 2006. Shanghai authorities have been trying without success to extend the 30.5 km maglev line. An intercity link with Hangzhou was approved by the central government in 2006, but construction has been postponed.[183] Work on a shorter extension to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport is also stalled.

Fastest trains in China

The Shanghai Maglev train, at top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph), is the fastest train in China. The maglev train has remained confined its original 30 km (19 mi) track as state planners chose high-speed trains that run on conventional track for the national HSR network.

The "fastest" train commercial service can be defined alternatively by a train's top speed or average trip speed.

  • The fastest train service measured by peak operational speed is the Shanghai Maglev Train which can reach 431 km/h (268 mph). Due to the limited length of the Shanghai Maglev track (30 km)(18.6 mi), the maglev train's average trip speed is only 245.5 km/h (152.5 mph). The Shanghai Maglev also holds the record for the top speed in tests of 501 km/h (311 mph).
  • The fastest train service measured by average trip speed from 2009 until 2011 was on the Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, where from December 2009 until July 1, 2011, the CRH3/CRH2 coupled-train sets averaged 312.5 km/h (194.2 mph) on the 922 km (573 mi) route from Wuhan to Guangzhou North. It was the fastest commercial train service in the world. However, on July 1, 2011 in order to save energy and reduce operating costs the maximum speed of Chinese high-speed trains was reduced to 300 km/h, and the average speed of the fastest trains on the Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway was reduced to 272.68 km/h (169 mph), slower than some French TGV's.
  • The top speed attained by a non-maglev train in China is 487.3 km/h (302.8 mph) by a CRH380BL train on the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway during a testing run on January 10, 2011.[184]

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