China has reinforced its position as the global leader in the deployment of high-speed rail by opening a new line linking Zhengzhou with Xuzhou and in doing so took the nations’ total superfast track over 20,000km. As a point of comparison, the country with the second most extensive high-speed network is Spain with 3,100km of operational track, Japan come in third with 2,664km with France fourth with 2,036km. Such is their dominance in the world rankings, that there’s more high-speed rail track in China than in the rest of the world combined. This new line 360km, connects the west with two major north-south lines, helping cut travel time between west and east. But the picture isn’t entirely positive for Chinese high-speed as a major $44.91 billion bond issue is launched to shore up its domestic transport projects.
Local press reports quote Huang Xin of China Railway Corporation (CRC) are stating that first 10,000 km took 11 years and has since doubled in only three years, and is expected to nearly double again by 2025 and reach 45,000 km in 2030.
In 2015, China's high-speed trains carried 961 million passengers, up 237 percent from the number in 2011 according to Xinhua News Agency. And the rapid development is changing how people, work, live and commute. A house in the country and a job in the city is now more attainable than ever.
In the next few years, it is planned that trains at a speed of over 500 km per hour will run on the Beijing-Shenyang line. In mid-July, two trains travelling at 420 km per hour in opposite directions passed each other on parallel tracks, fastest event of its kind.
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However, despite these eye-catching headline figures, this week Reuters have reported plans by CRC to issue 300 billion yuan ($44.91 billion) of bonds, as the country boosts up investment in infrastructure to support a slowing domestic economy. Some analysts have raised concerns of the heavy borrowing made by the CRC. Two-thirds of the funds are to be focsed for railway construction projects while CRC will use the rest for debt restructuring.
Only the Beijing-Shanghai link, which opened in 2011, is profitable, the rest of the country’s high-speed railway lines are loss-making according to the railway authority quoted in the Reuters report.
China has found customers for its high-speed trains Indonesia, Russia, Iran and India and is actively seeking further opportunities abroad. This foreign investment, and the restructuring debt are all aimed at making the bullet train lines become profitable and it become a sustainable and rational business model.
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