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September 21, 2017

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China’s bullet trains now the world’s fastest

FROM today, China has the world’s fastest bullet trains.

The domestically developed trains running between Shanghai and Beijing, called the Fuxing (meaning rejuvenation), show the nation, which started late on the high-speed track, is cementing its leading role in the race.

The new trains run at a consistent speed of 350 kilometers per hour, cutting the travel time to 4.5 from five hours on China’s busiest rail line.

With free Wi-Fi and more power outlets, USB ports and legroom, Fuxing is more comfortable to travel in.

It is safe, too, said Zhang Bo, a researcher with the Locomotive and Car Research Institute of China Academy of Railway Sciences.

China has paid scrupulous attention to safety in developing its high-speed railway, Zhang said.

The train contains more than 2,500 sensors — 500 more than previous models — to simultaneously collect some 1,500 real-time indicators from all carriages. Alarms are activated if an abnormality occurs in the cooling, braking or air-conditioning systems. If necessary, the train will stop on its own.

To avoid damage to carriages and fatalities, new trains are armed with more advanced shock and crash energy absorption equipment.

The Fuxing has a 30-year life, 10 years more than the existing model, and consumes 10 percent less power when running at 350kph. “Fuxing puts China on a higher stage,” said Sun Zhang, a professor at Shanghai Tongji University.

For over a decade, China has learned from developed countries how to build a world-class high-speed railway system. Now it holds the complete intellectual property rights for Fuxing, designed and manufactured without help from the West.

However, this does not mean parts cannot be imported. “It is common practice in the industry to buy certain components and parts best produced by a country in such a globalized market,” said Sun, a transport specialist.

For instance, many train makers worldwide purchase insulated gate bipolar transistors from French producers, while China’s buffers and chain couplers are also used by foreign producers due to their reliability, Sun said.

Despite a latecomer, China now has the world’s greatest high-speed rail network — 22,000km at the end of last year, or about 60 percent of the world’s total.

China is endowed with an advantage in developing bullet trains. Its diversity of geological, climate and even air conditions push engineers to break boundaries and achieve technological breakthroughs.

China is now building the Sichuan-Tibet railway, which will climb from the Sichuan Basin to the Roof of the World, more than 4,400 meters above sea level. More than 80 percent of the line will be tunnels and bridges.

Such demanding tasks have made Chinese engineers and builders more experienced and Chinese-manufactured trains more reliable and compatible, said Sun.

The Fuxing trains are able to run in extreme temperatures from minus 40 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius and can be adapted to various geological and operational situations, said He Huawu, China Railway Corp’s chief engineer.

Fuxing will be China’s main high-speed rail export in the future, and made-in-China trains have already made their way to countries like Indonesia, Russia, Iran and India. Experts are confident the model will be welcomed abroad, especially in Asia, Europe and Africa.

To meet demand, China will work ceaselessly to make the high-speed rail system more intelligent in terms of safety, maintenance, comfort, and for technical upgrades.

Interconnectivity should also be taken into consideration as the train system may be used overseas, Sun said.


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