China looking to develop high-speed rail freight network to boost e-commerce infrastructure
China has announced plans to speed up the development of its high-speed rail freight network that is supposed to improve the country’s e-commerce infrastructure and network. This move is expected to lower commercial railway transport costs in the country, which are surprisingly among the highest in the world.
These plans were released mid-August and envision further expansion of the rail passenger network. An advanced central control system will be built, integrating several indigenous technologies like AI, the Beidou satnav system, and the 5G telecommunications network.
China’s ambitions to transform into a rail transport world leader are no secret. The Transport Ministry had announced its plans to build and develop a maglev train network, capable of reaching speeds exceeding 600 kmph or 370 mph.
However, freight transport costs in China are twice as expensive compared to developed countries like the US and Japan. The China State Railway Group has already made it a priority to resolve this issue in its 15-year railway development plan. President Jinping also stated earlier that high logistics expenses were limiting the country’s economic progress.
Huang Qifan, who is currently serving as a government thinktank’s deputy director and was Chongqing ex-Mayor, wrote that the country’s logistics expenses were almost around 15% of the GDP, which was twice as much seen in Japan, Europe, and the US.
He added in a recent article that China’s pricey logistics services were preventing cargo railway services from being utilized to the maximum. As of now, railway cargo only accounts for 9.5% of all cargo shipments.
Boosting this percentage to at least 15 – 25% is predicted to lower logistics costs by a significant amount. As of now, water transport and trucking account for 16.2% and 74.3% of total freight volumes.
Although not many details have been disclosed in the latest blueprint, a transport plan released last year by the central government included plans for the development of high-speed trains capable of exceeding speeds of 250 kmph.
China Business Journal stated that this high-speed railway freight service would primarily cater to e-commerce enterprises, by transporting small-sized and premium packages.
High-speed railway freight trains were initially planned by the government in 2014. However, low demand meant that these plans got shelved on two separate occasions.
In 2017, China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation, which is the biggest passenger carriage and freight wagon manufacturer in the world, revealed that it was building high-speed railway freight wagons, which would be designed specifically to allow forklifts to unload and load goods directly.
It is now seeking to build a whole array of freight cargo transporters, which would include high-speed express freight trains, new containers, and heavy-duty wagons with a payload of over 30,000 tons.
It is also planning to digitize its logistics department in warehouses and railway stations around the country.
China Railway’s deputy director for the car and locomotive department, Wo Guodong, stated that the progress of online business in China meant that high-speed railway freight services could experience huge demand.
He added in a recent press briefing that the e-commerce sector would reap immense benefits with the introduction of express freight services catering to its specific needs.
“We are actively researching and developing our high-speed freight trains and conducting advanced studies on market demand and operation,” he stated further.
At the same press conference, Mo Zhisong, head of China Railway’s signaling division, informed that the forthcoming smart control system is supposed to be far more effective in comparison with the traditional fixed block system that is a hundred years old. “Train intervals will be shortened from the current minimum three-minute period to two minutes, resulting in a 30 per cent increase in transport capacity,” Mo said, adding that the new system would save energy as well when implemented.