China to Develop Track Changing Trains to Handle Different OBOR Gauges

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Liu Hualong, the Chairman of China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation Limited (CRRC), China’s rail car manufacturer, has said the company is researching and developing locomotives that can travel at up to 400 kilometers per hour and also change tracks to better facilitate rail transportation between regions that utilize different track gauges. This is needed as China’s rail gauge differs in width from that used by Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Russia, whose tracks also differ from gauges used in Europe.

Liu revealed the plans at a press conference on the One Belt, One Road initiative, held by the Information Office of the State Council. The press conference was hosted ahead of the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which has begun in Beijing. He also stated that China was developing trains and carriages, involving new technologies and products to better adapt itself to international transport and interconnection. This also included bespoke engineering, tailoring for specific international markets. Much of CRRC’s engineering work is carried out in Dalian and Shenyang in Northeast China.

Liu stated that CRRC had, for example, received orders totaling RMB 10 billion (US$1.45 billion) from Malaysia in the past three years, with a specific brief to design carriages for female passengers as well as containing prayer rooms. He also said that in terms of international markets, CRRC’s products are sold in 83 percent of all of countries that contain railways across the world.

The gauge changing technologies will be useful and will save time and inconvenience for passengers. At present, it can take up to eight hours to lift trains off bogies and onto new ones, while freight needs to be unloaded then reloaded onto new freight platforms.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis of Dezan Shira & Associates comments: “The rail freight services envisaged by the Chinese will mainly compete with air cargo rather than shipping. Rail is ideal for transporting large, heavy goods, and equipment, and the OBOR infrastructure developments will require exactly that. It may well be that containers of Chinese goods are also transported along with this primary cargo, but the main benefit in having the train network developed is for heavy goods.”


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