Beijing Review 2021年28期

By Tao Xing

Three drones circled the Jinan Yellow River Bridge on June 23 in Jinan, capital of Shandong Province, inspecting the segment of the Beijing-Shanghai HighSpeed Railway (BSHSR) passing through the city.

“New technologies such as 5G, big data, BeiDou navigation and satellite remote sensing are applied in operation management,” Yang Huaizhi, director of the department for equipment safety at Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Co. Ltd. (BSHSR Co.), told Beijing Review.

The instruments on the drone scanned the bridges piers, which are difficult to check manually, and sent back the related data for further analysis, according to Yang. “The system is expected to be promoted to the whole route in coming days,” he added.

The high-speed line starts from Beijing and ends in Shanghai, after passing through five provincial-level regions, including Tianjin Municipality and Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, which altogether cover a whopping 27 percent of the countrys population. The line serves 24 railway stations and connects the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze River Delta, two economically developed areas in China.

With bullet trains running at a record speed of about 350 km per hour along the BSHSR, the travel time between Beijing and Shanghai went from 14 hours to less than five. This provides a convenient lifestyle for those residents living alongside the tracks.

Ever since first entering operation in June 2011, the line has transported a total of 1.35 billion passengers, Yan Zuokui, an executive of the BSHSR Co., said at a June 22 press conference to mark the high-speed lines 10th anniversary. In 2019 alone, BSHSR trains transported some 210 million passengers.

The number of trains running on the 1,318-km-long BSHSR has increased to 568 per day from an initial of 131. “If we add up the distances traveled by all the trains on this line, their sum exceeds 1.58 billion km, 40,000 times the length of the equator,”Yan said.

An economic engine

The high-speed railway has not only made traveling much faster for passengers, but also promoted the integrated development of the regions it passes through. Those cities lying along the tracks have benefited significantly from its operation in terms of social and economic development.

A station along the line provides its city with a new and modern hub, according to Yan.

Xuzhou East Railway Station in Jiangsu Province is one of the 24 BSHSR stations. Xu Ning, deputy director of the station who witnessed both its construction and the impact this had on the development of its related district, told Beijing Review,“Here once stood a barren hill covered in weeds, with far fewer residents living in the area. After the station came into being and the BSHSR came running through, a new city hub arose from the ground.”

“It injects impetus into local economic development,” Xu added.

A 31.67-square-km new business area around the station, featuring an industrial park and shopping center, has become a new highlight of the city, Wang Hao, Director of the Xuzhou Development and Reform Commission, told Beijing Review.

The operation of the BSHSR has also further strengthened Xuzhous exchanges with other cities. In 2020, annual passenger volume at the highspeed railway station added up to 11.23 million, 8.2 times of that back in 2011.

In Huaiyin District of Shandong Provinces Jinan, home to the BSHSR Jinan West Railway Station, the population was under 300,000 before the arrival of the station; today, however, that number exceeds 700,000. Around the West Station, many new buildings have appeared such as a provincial theater and a center for international medical science communication.

Wang Dong, Director of the Huaiyin Development and Reform Commission, said that in the past decade, the BSHSR has turned the area into a vibrant sub-center of Jinan.

Moreover, Jinans GDP reached 1.014 trillion yuan ($156.93 billion) in 2020, a rise of 130 percent from 440.6 billion yuan ($68 billion) in 2011 when the high-speed railway station first opened to the public, according to Guo Yonggui, an official from the Jinan Development and Reform Commission. “The passing-through of the high-speed railway played an important role in spurring local economic growth,” he said.

The BSHSR also promotes the development of tourism along its tracks. After being served by the highspeed railway, Qufu, famous for being Confucius hometown, has seen a tourism boom. Since 2011, dozens of hotels have landed in the city to receive increasing numbers of visitors and in 2019 the city received about 8 million visitors, according to local officials.

Moreover, “the BSHSR strengthens talent exchanges and business negotiations, and the conversion of online communication into offline solutions,” Ling Xiangqian, executive deputy mayor of Yuhuatai District, Nanjing in Jiangsu Province, said.

According to Yan, the BSHSR boosts the share and flow of talent, technology, capital, and information along the line, with a number of industries and talented people being reallocated to the areas along its route from large cities such as Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai.

The China (Nanjing) Software Valley, located in Yuhuatai, was one of the national digital service export bases, aiming to grasp opportunities in digital economic development and speed up digital service exports.

The Valley has benefited from its proximity to another BSHSR station located in the district, the Nanjing South Railway Station.

It has now gathered 3,142 enterprises, providing more than 300,000 jobs, Ling told Beijing Review.

“The BSHSR has become an important engine driving regional coordination and development,” Yan said.“And it will continue to serve the countrys high-quality development.”

The pioneer spirit

The BSHSR is an exemplar of Chinas high-speed railways, especially in terms of profit making. It started to turn a profit in 2014 after only three years of operation. In 2020, the BSHSRs net profit amounted to about 4.586 billion yuan ($710 million)—even in the face of COVID-19. In the first quarter of this year, it achieved revenues worth 5.744 billion yuan ($890 million), an 11.7-percent year-on-year growth.

In addition to the dense population and stable passenger flow along the line, its success also comes from its various innovative management and operation measures.

In 2019, BSHSR Co. made its debut on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, raising 30.67 billion yuan ($4.74 billion), making it the ninth largest IPO in A-share history. It is a boost to the capital market, providing a marketized operation model for large state-owned enterprises and accelerating the marketization of the railway sector.

The companys successful listing is a milestone for the securitization of high-speed railway assets, Wan Fang, a director on the companys board appointed by Ping An Asset Management Co. Ltd., the second largest shareholder of the BSHSR, told Beijing Review.

The BSHSR Co. is a leader in the revolution of railway operations. It does not directly manage the transportation of the railway line as it entrusts different segments and stations to regional railway administration companies; all electricity-related operations and management, too, are delegated to a third party, an electrification engineering group.

In terms of practical operational management, an array of technologies has been put to the forefront. In addition to the drone system developed by BSHSR, the Nanjing South Railway Station applies a smart management system which can adjust the air conditioning and train lighting systems to passenger flow, thus reducing energy consumption. Along Nanjings Dashengguan Yangtze River Bridge, which was constructed solely for the BSHSR, staff can monitor the real-time water and wind conditions in the control room.

Furthermore, an information-sharing mechanism is in place as the railway line, stations and the bridges of the BSHSR are also occupied by other trains.

Overall, the company continues to provide its passengers with modern and better services that improve their travel experience, Yan said.

On June 25, the updated model of smart Fuxing bullet train first took to the BSHSR tracks. The smart train features improved safety monitoring as well as more comfortable seats, 5G Wi-Fi, and vending machines. Many novelty services have been introduced and promoted along the line, including electronic ticketing, and face scans when entering the station plus luggage delivery services.

The need for speed

Since the launch of the first high-speed rail in the country in 2003, high-speed railway construction in China has been carried out at remarkable speed. According to a white paper released by the State Council Information Office on June 24, Chinas travel facilities are upgrading, and by the end of 2020, the rail network had extended to a total of 146,000 km, including 38,000 km of high-speed rails.

The fast development of high-speed railways in China over the past decade is a testament to both the effective leadership of the Communist Party of China and the strengths of the Chinese political system, Wan said. “They provide the nation with superb coordination capabilities and strong project execution power, making possible the BSHSR project.”

The BSHSR has set a good business model for other high-speed railway projects to follow in driving a regions development, Wan said.

In 2014, the Lanzhou-Xinjiang High-Speed Railway, linking Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regions Urumqi with Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, and Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, launched, slashing total travel time from more than 23 hours down to 11 hours and 50 minutes.

The 1,776-km-long high-speed rail line, with a designed speed of 250 km per hour, is Chinas first high-speed railway built in a high-altitude region. It has not only increased annual freight volume of the old Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway, but also spurred the growth of tourism, mining and trade on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and across the vast region of Xinjiang.

On June 25 of this year, the 435.48-km-long Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway in southwest Chinas Tibet Autonomous Region, with a designed speed of 160 km per hour, officially opened. This is the first railway in that part of Tibet. Although its speed is not very high, it has adopted some high-speed railway technologies. A specifically designed modern and comfortable Fuxing bullet train, which usually runs on high-speed rails, went into service on the plateau area that same day.

Of course, not all high-speed railways can equal the BSHSR profits and many of them even experience consecutive economic losses. In several underdeveloped areas, more time is needed to further cultivate the market to make high-speed railways become profitable.

According to the China State Railway Group (CSRG), the stateowned national railway operator who controls the BSHSR, the overall operation of Chinas high-speed railways is in good condition. The railway sector has continuously improved its operational management, developing the market to increase transportation and revenue and reducing costs.

What a high-speed railway can bring to the development of both a society and its economy sometimes outweighs its operational profitability. The construction of a railway can serve the greater public good, CSRG concluded. It can increase residentshappiness along these tracks and boost local economic growth. BR