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Nov 2009 - China Rail Tops

China Rail Leaps to the Top League

We spent ~5.5hours (it was one of the recommended routes) going to the China Mining Conference in Tianjin TEDA from Beijing in October 2009, being bus from Beijing’s international airport to Tianjin and then a more than 1hour cab ride from Tianjin to Tianjin TEDA (the conference organisers failed to supply the detail that Tianjin TEDA was about 50km from Tianjin [near the coast at Tanggu]).

However, we returned to Beijing from Tianjin TEDA in about 1 hour using their latest bullet train at a cost of only RMB84 (A$ or US$14, or less than 9 Euro/GBP) for the >200km railway ticket.

Beijing South Railway Station has transformed in less than two years into a bullet railway station as shown in Figure 1. Admittedly it is not up to the standard of the Eurostar’s St Pancras International Railway Station in London (which we visited in November 2009) and its range of shops beneath the platforms, but that is probably simply a case of time.

The bullet train from Tianjin reached a peak of about 330km per hour as shown inset in Figure 1. We haven’t actually kept much track on trains for some time, and consequently were unaware of the half-bullets (not so long a nose) of the UK’s National Express trains that have whittled the travelling time for the 400mls (640km) from London to Edinburgh down to only 3.5hours (excluding the 6 x 5min stops), compared to the ~8 hours that it used to take.

Apparently the UK train speeds are close to their peak, to go higher needs new rail tracks and there was “a bit of wobble” especially when trains passed each other (also experienced on the Eurostar too), but not in China, not even at ~300km per hour. And China is laying new rail, we could see the new lines all running parallel to each other, being the original, the one we were on, and the new one under construction, on the other side of the original – all on their own supports slicing across the countryside.

China has a target of laying ~8,000km of rail per year under the expansion/growth plans for a number of years to come, in its drive to reduce the travelling time between its cities. Apparently one of the current main focus lines is Shanghai to Beijing, which has reputedly already reduced from just over 20 hours to ~10hours and has a target time of ~4 hours by 2012.

Wuhan (which we once visited as Golden Tiger’s original head office) and was then building a road link to Guangzhou, now has a rail link to Guangzhou which takes about 10 hours, and that is targeted to be reduced to 3 to 4 hours. The >1000km 10hour trip from Beijing to Xian also has a target time of 4 hours The 220km rail journey that we took in November 2006 from Shanghai to Hangzhou took about 2 hours and has since fallen to about an hour with a target of <45mins in the coming year.

With so much rail being laid it was obviously only a question of time. However, it still came as a surprise (as we commented last month) to pass through Tianjin and see layers of rail, just like the freeways.

China is not simply focusing on rail construction to link its cities together, it is also focusing on speed to reduce the travelling times between its cities at relatively low ticket costs, hence enabling the majority of its population to have affordable speed of movement.

Disclosure and Disclaimer: This article has been written by Keith Goode, the Managing Director of Eagle Research Advisory Pty Ltd, (an independent research company) who is an Authorised Representative with Taylor Collison Ltd, and with his associates, may hold interests in some of the stocks mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article should not be taken as investment advice, but are based on observations by the author. The author does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information and is not liable for any loss or damage suffered through any reliance on its contents.

Figure 1. Beijing South’s New Bullet Train Railway StationGDNnov09

  • Written by: Keith Goode
  • Sunday, 01 November 2009