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“Over the past six years, we’ve been working around the clock.”
CP: In May 2010, the China-made 380 kph CRH locomotive, the world’s fastest train, was unveiled. It will begin operation on the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway in 2011. What a path has CSR walked in terms of technological innovation?
Zheng: CSR has grasped core technology with respect to high-speed locomotive development and production, while building a platform for high-speed train design, manufacturing and testing. Like I said before, CSR has followed a path from absorbing foreign technology to the genesis of independent technological innovation. The year 2004 marked the debut of high-speed railways in China. That year, China began introducing high-speed rail technology from multinational giants such as Bombardier, Alstom, Siemens, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Then, in 2006, the first Chinese-made high-speed CRH locomotive with a speed of 250 kilometers per hour rolled off the production line of CSR’s manufacturing base in Qingdao City. On April 18, 2007, China launched its sixth railway speed acceleration, for which CSR supplied 47 CRH trains, accounting for more than 90 percent of all CRH trains in operation. CSR made the bold move of forming a systemic development platform for high-speed locomotives and further upgrading its design and manufacturing technology.
Later, we began to independently develop high-speed CRH trains with a maximum velocity of 300-350 kilometers per hour, which eventually rolled off the production line in December 2007. Currently, our new 380A EMU is under development for the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, and an experimental train now runs at nights on the Zhengzhou-Xi’an Railway to test its performance, aerodynamics, traction, safety, and comfort. The experimental train is equipped with nearly 1,000 sensors, each of which transfers information instantly to the control system. It has been proven that the faster the train runs, the safer it is. Our superiority over our market competitors lies in our rich experience in high-speed train testing, operation and maintenance.
Over the past six years, we’ve been working around the clock. Many of our employees devote themselves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some engineers often work daily until midnight. It is common for our employees to sacrifice vacation, even during the Spring Festival which is regarded as the most important holiday in China. Since the very beginning, we’ve practiced the so-called “1:3 Concept” with introduction of advanced technology. That means that for each one yuan of introduced technology, we invest three yuan to absorb and upgrade it. We’ve invested a huge amount in laboratories and testing equipment because the development of high-speed EMU requires continual experimentation. A total of 10,000 scientists and technicians including more than 20 academicians, as well as 14 research institutions, including Institute of Mechanics and Institute of Computer Science under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, participate in our high-speed EMU project. Some foreign experts have noted that in the past six years we’ve completed jobs that took them four decades. This is because we’ve been able to finish three or even five days’ work in a single day.
Currently, our products have been exported to more than 40 countries and regions around the world. In 2009, our overseas orders increased by 60 percent from the previous year. Nowadays, overseas orders contribute 10 percent of our revenue, and the figure is expected to grow to 20 percent in the near future. In the past, CSR mainly exported train parts, but now we focus on exporting assembled trains, of which 70-80 percent are high value-added locomotives, CRH trains, and subway vehicles. Our market share has grown consistently. If high-speed trains are allowed to be exported, they will testify to the popularity of “created-in-China” products in the international market.
On November 17, 2009, when US President Barack Obama visited China, the Ministry of Railways signed a cooperative agreement with GE, according to which the two parties agreed to strengthen cooperation in the US high-speed railway project with a designed velocity to exceed 350 kilometers per hour. The United States intends to introduce high-speed railway technology just like China did a few years ago. In 2009, when he visited China, US Secretary of Commerce Gary Faye Locke commented that a century ago China exported railway laborers to the US, but now it exports railway technology. Indeed, we’ve realized the evolution from the “made-in-China” era to the “created-in-China” era. We’re proud that we’ve made our own contribution in nudging China towards a new era of high-speed railway transportation.
(Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of CSR)