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India should seek China's help on aging rail networks

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

03-23-2018 12:12 BJT

By Rabi Sankar Bosu, Indian freelance contributor to Chinese media outlets

The Indian Railways, the world's fourth largest rail network carrying 23 million people to their destinations daily, struggles with chronic under-investment and over-crowding. Last year 15 percent of all the rail accidents worldwide happened in India. According to the Times of India, 586 rail accidents were reported in the last five years in India, nearly 53% were due to derailments with the Utkal Express derailment as the most recent in which over 20 people died and 97 were injured. 35 train accidents killing hundreds in 2017 raises the question: Does India need a bullet train from Japan more than public safety? More frequent train accidents have heightened unease among Indians.

Meanwhile, China's rail safety record is incomparable with other nations. China's railway passengers' transport safety leads global rankings. The Chinese railways, in the reform era unveiled by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s, absorbed the technology, mastered it and has begun to export it throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South America and Africa, promoting economic development. Railway diplomacy has become a crucial theme of China’s international engagement.

Armed with technology and financial resources, China's rail networks have undergone a remarkable transformation over the past 10 years or so. According to a China Railway Corporation report, by the end of 2017, there are over 127,000 kilometers of rail running across China.

The country has embarked on an ambitious government-funded project to connect the country’s main cities with high-speed rail lines. China has the world's most extensive high-speed rail network (HSR), with 25,000 kilometers of track in use, which accounts for two-thirds of the world's total high-speed railways.

The maximum speed of China's bullet trains has risen to 350 kph, when the Fuxing (Rejuvenation) bullet trains started operation between Beijing and Shanghai on September 21, 2017. The Chinese can travel from Beijing to Shanghai in just five hours by the HSR, compared to 2.5 hours by air. According to the 13th Five-Year Plan, China's high-speed rail tracks are expected to reach 30,000 km by 2020, covering more than 80 percent of the large cities with populations over one million, reports thepaper.cn.

Presently, only 15 countries have the HSR. Beijing stands as the undisputed leader of high-speed railway technology. By comparison, India is lagging way behind. India's first HSR line, the 500-km Mumbai-Ahmedabad line is scheduled for completion by 2023, thanks to Japan's Shinkansen technology.

But choosing Japan as a partner, India has shown its protectionist stance against China. China is home to the fastest and most profitable bullet train services in the world. China is closer to India in regards to geographic, demographic and economic factors.  India can accelerate its rail network revamp efforts and shorten investment times by cooperating with China.

Consider the public safety of railways in China. Last year, during the year's 40-day-long Spring Festival travel rush, China Railways handled enormous passengers' pressure without even one accident. This year nearly 3 billion passenger trips were made, including 390 million trips by train, 58 percent by bullet trains between February 1 and March 12. Xinhua News agency reported on March 13, 2018 that during the above mentioned 40 days, 88.5 pairs of additional bullet trains were put  into operation each night on average. 74.8 percent of travelers were either satisfied or saw improvement in the transport work this year. Information technology, smartphones service and the social networking app WeChat made China's festival travel rush much easier.

China can teach Indian Railways a lot, including passenger comfort, reliability, safety, and speed. Bullet trains are never late in China. On February 26, 2018 at a press conference, Ding Rongjun, an academic of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said, “China is also researching the next generation magnetic-levitation train with a top speed of 600 kph.”

When will India invest in bullet trains? Our existing trains are often infested with insects and rodents, while not running at normal speed. Shouldn't the Indian Railways make our railway network more efficient and on schedule? The Indian Railways can collaborate with Chinese experts.

India has one of the largest railway networks in the world but it suffers from frequent train accidents. China's experience in public safety in transportation, as well as developing high-speed rail network makes it a fantastic partner for India to develop its aging rail infrastructure. In recent years, China's high-speed rail technology has grabbed global attention, earning the economy a new name card. India should cooperate with China to revitalize its rail system and management levels.

India actually needs China more than China needs India in the arena of steel rail manufacturing and train technology.

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)


Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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