Wreckage of China's train crash

Metro and commuter lines the new China rail opportunity

China’s suspension of new high-speed rail projects has prompted Bombardier to look for new growth areas in the country.

The company has identified light-rail systems, commuter trains and automated people movers as segments where it can expand and grow its business. Bombardier China president Zhang Jianwei said there is a huge market for these new businesses and the company cannot afford to miss out on the opportunities.

According to an official at the Development Research Centre of China’s State Council in Beijing, Wang Fujing, 21 cities have been identified for light-rail systems to be built, with 15 confirmed.

Construction has started in Beijing, Dalian, Xi’an and Chongqing. Commuter lines that connect city centres to outlying suburbs and smaller towns are being finalised for Nanjing, Tianjin and Shanghai to reduce congestion on city roads.

On 10 August the Ministry of Railways in Beijing ordered a blanket reduction of the running speed on high-speed lines, following a fatal train collision on 23 July near Wenzhou in which 43 people died and 211 were injured.

Twelve teams comprising 286 railway engineering inspectors have been assigned to conduct safety checks on 49 high-speed railway projects currently under construction. In addition, safety audits are being carried out on 6,000km of high-speed track.

Fifty-four high-speed trains, built by China CNR Corp and deployed on the Beijing-Shanghai route, are also being recalled.

The government halted all new high-speed rail projects in the wake of the Wenzhou crash, but Zhang believes that the suspension is only a temporary measure to ensure the programme’s safety, and Bombardier has sufficient orders to see it through the slowdown.

In 2009 Bombardier signed a $4bn contract with the Ministry of Railways for 80 high-speed trains with a maximum operating speed of 380km/h, and 40 more were ordered in 2010. Deliveries for the 2009 order are due to start in early 2012.

The company has also secured 16 orders for signalling and propulsion equipment for HSR and subways. Bombardier’s transportation cooperation with China started in 1954. It now has three joint ventures and seven wholly-owned companies there.

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