Feature: Sophisticated industrial chain powers Chinese high-speed trains
A bullet train stops at the platform of Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 26, 2022.
BEIJING, July 29 (Xinhua) -- When CRRC Corporation Limited (CRRC), China's leading train maker, signed a light rail vehicle supply contract with the Monterrey Metro Bureau of Mexico more than three years ago, the company faced an immediate challenge concerning supply of components due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
As a result of serious disruptions to the global supply chain caused by the pandemic, the adoption of domestically manufactured elastic wheels became a matter of urgency for CRRC in implementing the contract. CRRC, nevertheless, managed to deliver the trains, and did so ahead of schedule.
In January 2022, CRRC's smart bullet train featuring automatic driving made a debut by galloping at 350 km per hour on the Beijing-Zhangjiakou High-speed Railway, setting a world record.
Tailor-made and designed by a CRRC subsidiary for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the Fuxing smart train also demonstrated high accuracy when it made a stop, with the accuracy of the stopping point controlled within just 0.5 meters, which amazed both athletes and journalists at the time.
With a growing share in the rail transport market abroad, coupled with continuous technological innovations at home, China's high-speed railway sector has invoked questions and queries regarding the type of industrial planning and business models that have nurtured the industry's competitiveness -- and fame.
One may have to look for an answer within a highly sophisticated industrial chain that spans the sector and where companies -- upstream, midstream, and downstream -- work in synergy to provide markets with products and services, and vie for business deals through improved technologies, great craftsmanship, and high-quality products.
Take the CRRC's smart high-speed train featuring automatic driving for instance. This train is the result of a combination of cutting-edge technologies including cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, and 5G telecommunication, which required higher levels of technology from various suppliers involved.
To realize precise positioning and timing for automatic driving, the train, for the first time, applied the home-grown Beidou Navigation Satellite System after CRRC's subsidiary, CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd. collaborated with participating firms to build a testing system that confirmed the project's feasibility.
"In order to promote technological iterations, CRRC has formed an independent innovation consortium with 17 domestic scientific research institutes and universities, 70 strategic suppliers, as well as 338 enterprises," said Sun Yongcai, CRRC chairman, adding that CRRC has also invited another 300 plus components suppliers in the urban rail transit equipment sector to join in product design, for instance, of the home-grown elastic wheels.
The core technology behind such wheels used to be mastered by foreign suppliers, which meant that the purchase cost, delivery date, and after-sales service were all uncontrollable for CRRC. In order to deliver the trains to its Mexican client on time, CRRC partnered with Zhuzhou Gofront Equipment Co., Ltd., a firm based in south China's Hunan Province.
With technical support from CRRC, the firm, through trial and error, successfully developed the wheels, enabling CRRC to deliver the trains to Mexico. "Motivated by CRRC, our industrial chain leader, we have not only mastered the key core technologies, but also learned from CRRC's mature management experience. Through cooperation, our wheels successfully penetrated the overseas market together with the trains," said Zhou Houkui, the company's general manager.
"It is precisely because CRRC shares mature manufacturing and management experience, as well as market access, that our company has managed to roll out a batch of competitive products," Zhou added.
China's rail transit equipment sector epitomizes the nation's efforts to promote high-quality economic development, foster and expand strategic emerging industries, and develop more mainstay industries. According to official data, the value-added industrial output of the equipment manufacturing sector grew 6.5 percent year on year in the first half of 2023, 2.7 percentage points higher than the overall growth of value-added industrial output during the same period.
During the meeting held by the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on July 24, decision-makers made it clear that strong support will be given to scientific and technological innovation, the real economy, and the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
The competency of the train manufacturing sector allows Chinese companies to secure business deals in overseas markets courtesy of their reliable and trustworthy products, while also promoting cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
In June 2023, CRRC enjoyed another limelight moment when an inspection train of theirs reached 350 km per hour for the first time during a test run on the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway (HSR) in Indonesia.
CRRC said in May that its 11th and last shipment of the high-speed train had already been exported to Indonesia for the Jakarta-Bandung HSR. The landmark project, under the Belt and Road Initiative, is scheduled to commence operation in August.
With the inauguration of the Jakarta-Bandung HSR approaching, expectations are growing for the convenience and efficiency the project will bring. The journey between Jakarta and Bandung is expected to be cut from over three hours to around 40 minutes.