According to a study released by World Bank, China’s long term planning and standardization of design are among the country’s key success factors for the development od its high-speed railway network.
A key enabling factor identified by the study is the development of a comprehensive long-term plan to provide a clear framework for the development of the system. China’s Medium and Long-Term Railway Plan looks up to 15 years ahead and is complemented by a series of Five-Year Plans.
Another key factor is the standardization of designs and procedures which keep costs down. The construction cost of the Chinese high-speed rail network, at an average of USD 17 million to USD 21 million per km, is about two-thirds of the cost in other countries.
In addition, the study analyses the economic benefits of HSR services. The rate of return of China’s network as of 2015 is estimated at 8 percent, well above the opportunity cost of capital in China and most other countries for major long-term infrastructure investments. Benefits include shortened travel times, improved safety and facilitation of labor mobility, and tourism. High-speed networks also reduce operating costs, accidents, highway congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions as some air and auto travelers switch to rail.
“China has built the largest high-speed rail network in the world. The impacts go well beyond the railway sector and include changed patterns of urban development, increases in tourism, and promotion of regional economic growth. Large numbers of people are now able to travel more easily and reliably than ever before, and the network has laid the groundwork for future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” Martin Raiser, World Bank Country Director for China, said.
In China, high-speed rail service is competitive with road and air transport for distances of up to about 1200 km. Fares are competitive with bus and airfares and are about one-fourth the base fares in other countries. This has allowed high-speed rail to attract more than 1.7 billion passengers a year from all income groups.
Since 2008, China put into commercial operation 25,000 km of high-speed lines, representing more than the total high-speed lines operating in the rest of the world. The World Bank has financed some 2,600 km of high-speed rail in China to date.