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Local Technology for High Speed Rail Link
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Foreign technology will not be used to build the high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai, it was announced yesterday.

"We have already reached a consensus on the issue--the high-speed railway line will be based on our own technology," Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun told China Daily.

"We are confident and capable of completing the railway through the efforts of our own engineers and technicians," he said.

The minister did not specify what technology would be used but stressed that "our technology is innovative and based on assimilating the advanced technologies of other countries."

He disclosed that the project could start as early as the end of this year after securing approval from the State Council. Liu made the remarks on the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress -- the country's top legislature.

It's the first time a high-ranking Chinese official has specifically ruled out the use of foreign technology being used to build the 1,300-kilometer railway.

The 200-billion-yuan (US$24.7 billion) project was first proposed in 1994 and originally scheduled for completion before the beginning of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing or the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.

The express railway designed to travel at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour is expected to cut the travel time between the two cities from 13 hours to less than five.

But debate over the controversial technology issue has delayed the project especially after it triggered a "white-hot" bidding war among Japanese, German and French companies. Japan has been lobbying China to use its Shinkansen bullet train technology while France has been pitching its TGV high-speed transport system.

For its part, Germany has been pushing for the use of its magnetic levitation train technology or "maglev" which is already being used on a 30-kilometer route in Shanghai. It's the world's first such railway line in commercial operation.

China is potentially a highly lucrative market for foreign companies as the country plans to build a 5,400-kilometer high-speed railway network with an investment of more than 1,000 billion yuan (US$124 billion) between 2006 and 2010.

Liu indicated the use of Chinese technology for the project was decided by central government which has unveiled plans for China to build itself into a nation of innovators over the next 15 years.

"The State Council is particularly interested in the technology issue," he said. "We have acted in line with State policy."

Analysts said China's decision is partly due to concerns about reliance on overseas technology. In early 2005 the Science & Technology Daily published a lengthy report questioning the Rail Ministry's strategy of relying on high-speed railway technology imported at high costs.

"Foreign companies will never give us their up-to-date technology," the report said. It added that any failure to build-up technological capability could eventually undermine China's own "home grown" ability to be innovative and successful in the market.

Yesterday, Liu said the Beijing-Shanghai express railway project had been authorized by the central government and listed as one of the key transportation projects in the country's 11th Five-Year Outlines (2006-10).

The feasibility study for the project would soon be submitted to the State Council for approval, he said. The minister said China plans to construct 19,800 kilometers of new railway lines and rebuild 23,000 kilometers by 2010 to ease mounting pressure on the rail transportation network.

One of the major projects is a proposed inter-city railway system in the Yangtze River Delta which would link Shanghai with almost all major cities in neighboring Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces in East China.

(China Daily March 9, 2006)


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