Hungary-Serbia Rail line marks new start of China-CEE cooperation

Rail Diplomacy: In a high-profile demonstration of China's high-speed rail technology, Premier Li Keqiang took the leaders of 16 Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) nations on Wednesday for an excursion on the country's most advanced bullet train
Rail Diplomacy: In a high-profile demonstration of China’s high-speed rail technology, Premier Li Keqiang took the leaders of 16 Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) nations on Wednesday for an excursion on the country’s most advanced bullet train

Beijing: The start of construction of the Hungary-Serbia railway marks a new beginning of the pragmatic cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries.

The construction of the Serbian section of the railway will be carried out by a consortium of Chinese companies led by China Railway.

The launch of the project shows that the railway cooperation between China, Hungary and Serbia has entered a phase of implementation and another important fruit has been yielded in the strategy of going abroad for Chinese rail companies, an official of China Railway said.

With advanced technology and good compatibility, Chinese railways are safe, reassuring and cost-effective, the official said, adding that choosing Chinese companies to build the railway represents international recognition of the technological strength and comprehensive advantage of Chinese railways.

The railway linking the capitals of Hungary and Serbia, Budapest and Belgrade, has a total length of 350 km, with 184 km in Serbia. It is designed for electrified passenger and cargo trains with a maximum speed of 200 km per hour.

The project is expected to last two years. Upon its completion, the traveling time by train between the two capital cities will be reduced from eight hours to less than three hours.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday sent a congratulatory message to Serbia on the start of the joint railway project in the Balkan country.

In the message, Li said the start of construction of the Hungary-Serbia railway, a flagship project between China and the two countries, indicated that their trilateral cooperation has taken an important step forward.

It also showed that the pragmatic cooperation between China and CEE countries has seen a new start, he added.

China is willing to join hands with Serbia and Hungary to ensure the completion of the project as scheduled and open the railway to traffic as soon as possible, Li said.

The premier expressed his belief that the railway will not only boost infrastructure construction and interconnectivity in the region, but also enhance the European integration process, better dovetail the development strategies of China and Europe, as well as deepen China-Europe reciprocal and win-win cooperation in production capacity, investment and other areas.

Addressing a ceremony of starting the project in Serbia’s second largest city of Novi Sad, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic expressed thanks for the arduous efforts made by both Chinese and Serbian teams to push ahead the Hungary-Serbia railway project, saying the startup of the project is another breakthrough in pragmatic cooperation between Serbia and China.

Vucic said the start of the project fully represented the upgrade of the China-Serbia strategic partnership and has great significance to the further development of the China-CEE cooperation, also known as the “16+1” cooperation.

The Hungary-Serbia railway significantly brings Serbia closer to the central zones of Europe, and will help build Serbia into a regional pivot of transportation and logistics, Vucic said.

Serbia stands ready to work together with China to ensure the opening of the Hungary-Serbia railway in 2018.

The project for the modernization of the Belgrade-Budapest railway was initially agreed on at the 2013 China-CEE countries leaders’ meeting that took place in Romania’s Bucharest, while last year’s summit held in Serbia’s Belgrade saw a Memorandum of Understanding signed by China, Hungary and Serbia.

The cooperation plan for the railway construction was signed early this year in Belgrade at the meeting of the Trilateral Group of China, Hungary and Serbia for Traffic and Infrastructure Cooperation, setting dates for certain phases of the project.

At this year’s summit between leaders of China and CEE countries on Nov. 24-25 in eastern China’s Suzhou city, China signed separate deals with Hungary and Serbia to construct and revamp the railway aimed at creating a fast lane for trade between China and Europe.

Chinese railway equipment is thriving due to its low cost, quick delivery, and acknowledged reliability. Here are some of the landmarks on the way to this increased popularity.

  • In 2004, the medium and long-term plan for the railway network starts the development of railways for trains at speeds of 200 km per hour and beyond.
  • On April 18, 2007, bullet trains running at 200-250 km per hour go into service on the Beijing-Harbin, Beijing-Shanghai and Beijing-Guangzhou lines.
  • A revised version of the medium and long-term plan comes into effect on Oct. 31, 2008, declaring that the total mileage of China’s express passenger railways will exceed 50,000 km by 2020, covering almost all Chinese cities with a population over 500,000.
  • On Dec. 3, 2010, a CRH-380A train sets a new speed record of 486.1 km per hour on a test run on the Beijing-Shanghai line.
  • On July 23, 2011, a high-speed train slams into a stalled train near the eastern city of Wenzhou, resulting in 40 deaths and 172 injuries. The accident was blamed on faulty signaling equipment and mismanagement. A nationwide rail safety check follows, with speed reductions for bullet trains and a stagnation of high-speed rail construction.
  • The country cautiously resumes construction and operation of high-speed railways in 2012, culminating in completion of the Beijing-Guangzhou link, the longest of its kind in the world.
  • In 2014, China has more than 16,000 kilometers of fast track in operation.

Overseas Expansion

After success at home, Chinese train manufacturers have started to explore overseas market. The merger of previously independent domestic rail transit equipment makers CNR and CSR has sharpened the competency of Made-in-China products.

  • In 2014, China’s first overseas high-speed rail project is completed in Turkey where a 533-km railway links capital Ankara with Istanbul.
  • In June this year, a consortium of Chinese and Russian companies agrees on a contract worth 20.8 billion rubles (around 380 million U.S. dollars) with Russian Railways on pre-construction surveys and design for 770 km of track linking Moscow and Kazan. It is the first time Chinese railway technology is used abroad.
  • In October 2015, China and Indonesia sign a joint-venture agreement on construction and operation of a high-speed link between Jakarta and Bandung.
  • The first high-speed railway project in the United States with Chinese investment involved is expected to kick off as early as September 2016. The 370-km Xpress West high-speed railway project, also named the Southwest Rail Network, will connect Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
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