A speedy course to regional development

Updated: 2011-12-30 08:51

By Shuai Bin (China Daily)

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A speedy course to regional development

Amajor problem in China's present transportation sector is the lack of major roads connecting two or more cities that can meet the needs of regional economic development.

This problem is mostly reflected in the nation's deficiencies in highways, equipment, facilities and the management of transit systems.

But China's rapid economic development, its industrial reforms and push for urbanization are creating new transit demands. In planning and building an integrated transport system, the resources, environmental considerations are increasingly being taken seriously. There is growing demand for convenient, comfortable and safe traveling experiences.

High-speed rail lines not only have the ability to transport a large amount of people but it's fast, comfortable and do not consume a great deal of energy. High-speed trains have become an effective way to ease the gridlocks in regional transport systems and to integrate regional economies.

The rail line between Beijing and Wuhan in Central China is responsible for moving coal and carrying goods from North to South China. Since the costs for transporting goods by rail are lower, overall costs are reduced.

Since high-speed trains have been put into effect, there has been a significant reduction in travel time between cities. It has also reduced people's dependence on living and working in metropolitans and eased traffic in big cities. The new lines have also freed up freight trains to transport goods, relieving the tension in regional transportation systems.

The Beijing-Shijiazhuang-Wuhan high-speed rail connects north Beijing to Tianjin to Wuhan. When it opens, it will connect Wuhan and Guangzhou and link up Shenzhen and eventually Hong Kong.

The so-called golden route of North, Central and South China will be opened up and will lead to regional economic development in China. The construction of the Beijing-Shijiazhuang-Wuhan high-speed rail is obviously important. The travel time from Beijing to Wuhan is expected to be reduced from 11 hours on a standard train to only about 4 hours on the high-speed rail.

Speed and shortened travel time, however, are not the only important consequences from the high-speed rail. The new line will also bring a flow of talent from city to city along the route, strengthening how technology is shared from region to region.

Benefits from the line are numerous: a new labor force, more urbanization and a greater link with other regions.

The Beijing-Shijiazhuang-Wuhan high-speed rail will allow for the regions incorporated by the line to upgrade their factories and industries. It should improve the service industry and tourism and develop high-tech industries. And since constructing the line involved new technologies in electronics, information, materials, energy and environmental protection, completion of the line should create opportunities to expand on these technologies that are closely connected with railway-related manufacturing and engineering, building materials and communications.

For example, the Shijiazhuang to Wuhan high-speed rail project, except for a small section of ballast track, uses ballast-less track designed in China. Traction power supply, communication signals, centralized scheduling and secure detection systems all use Chinese devices. These accomplishments have helped further the reputation of China's railways and promote China's railway technology and standards. The new rail lines have allowed China to fashion a brand for itself. It has also allowed it access to a wider international market.

The result of a number of international cooperation will have far-reaching strategic significance.

Compared with highways, high-speed railway will help conserve resources and help protect the environment. In terms of land occupation, the Shijiazhuang-Wuhan high-speed rail line will be mostly an elevated line with 81 percent comprising bridges and tunnels in order to improve speed and reduce the use of land.

The high-speed rail viaduct will stretch for 642 km, accounting for more than 70 percent of the total length rail. It will reduce the occupation of land resources. In terms of energy consumption, the high-speed rail uses electricity instead of oil and it can also use renewable energy sources such as nuclear, solar or hydro power, which will help the rail transport system effectively reduce the dependency on resources. In terms of environmental protection, since the high-speed rail uses electric traction, there is basically no harmful gas, which will not cause atmosphere pollution.

The high-speed railway produces less noise than planes and other modes of transportation. It is indeed "a green transport" that suits China's needs.

The development of the high-speed rail is a growing trend in the world. The development of modern high-speed rails in the 21st century will have far-reaching significance and impact on China's sustainable development strategy.

According to China's long-term railway network plan, in the next few years, with the construction of passenger lines, there will be more cities connected by the high-speed railway transportation network.

When the engine of the "high-speed economic circle" becomes more apparent, it will further promote a new round of economic development and industrial improvement.

The author is a professor at Southwest Jiaotong University. (China Daily 12/30/2011 page6)