The rail industry is increasingly dominated by China’s actions, be they take-overs, low priced tenders or the sometimes remarkably quick delivery of major projects. And this trend shows little sign of abating with a government plan reported in local media predicting that China's rail manufacturing sector will over the rest of this decade expand to a point where it will sell 650 billion yuan ($101.9 billion) worth of exports by 2020. The report from the Economic Information Daily, also predicts the rail market to grow globally by 3.3% annually in the next five years.
With Chinese domestic economic growth slowing, falling in the latest to a six-year low of 6.9% in the last quarter, an increase in exports are needed to pick up the slack. New markets and a more intensive targeting of existing ones are a key goal. And it’s near neighbours in Eurasia with their flourishing economies that Beijing see as a key area for them. These nations form the largest chunk of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative which focuses on connectivity and consists of two main components, the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) and oceangoing "Maritime Silk Road” (MSR).
These new and expanded transport links with reduce China’s dependence on Pacific sea routes and enable goods made in China take three weeks by train, rather than six weeks by boat to reach Europe.
Major rail projects are proliferating across Eurasia, with an increasing focus on freight delivery. Whilst high-speed rail, a technology in which China excels is something which many countries are looking at, though the proposal to completion for these projects is still very low.
The Chinese government’s roadmap, as reported in the Asia Times, also states that the country expects outbound sales of transportation equipment to further expand by 40% by 2025, and this growth will focus on developing 30-ton-axle-load electric locomotives as well as including high-speed trains of its own standard.
The projections from the Chinese government came just before the Chief Engineer of national rail operator China Railway, He Huawu, proposed a “Silk Road high-speed railway” to provide a single line connecting the Chinese network, central Asia and Iran. As reported in the Global Construction Review, the move would overcome the incompatibility between the standard gauge networks of China and Iran, and central Asia’s system, which uses Russia’s broad-gauge lines. With the current system China has to deploy breaks-of-gauge at its borders with Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan, while Iran has breaks at its borders with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan. This however, would have to overcome a number of geopolitical concerns in the countries through which the line would potentially traverse.
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