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An unlikely world leader

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China Railway Group, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Railway Engineering Corporation, has offered to finance and build links to Birmingham Airport and a station on Britain’s high-speed HS2 rail network, the Financial Times reported (paywall). It appears that the project involves the Whitacre link proposed by Alan Marshall and Michael Byng, but Downing Street is cautious.

[‘China offers to finance and build rail links to HS2’, FT, Mark Odell and Jim Pickard, 8 Jan 2014]

[…] Ministers are promoting HS2 as a project that can establish the UK as a world-leader in high-speed rail engineering and so are sensitive to the fact that Beijing’s offers to finance infrastructure in other countries have often been contingent on awarding building contracts to Chinese companies.

In a letter to the leader of Birmingham city council last month, China Railway Group offered to build connections from the proposed HS2 interchange on Birmingham’s eastern outskirts to the airport and cities such as Coventry and Peterborough.

Why ministers are relaxed about having Chinese involvement in Hinkley Point C, but cautious about having them build HS2, is as baffling as their enthusiasm for HS2 itself. Equally unclear is how ministers expect the UK to become a “world leader in high-speed rail engineering” on the back of HS2.

Britain is not a significant exporter of railway hardware, and its railways are largely equipped by foreign companies. Countries that export high speed rail hardware, tend to export other types of rail hardware as well. For example, France’s Alstom and Germany’s Siemens sell tramcars, commuter trains, and locomotives, as well as high speed trains. Britain’s current locomotive, tramcar, and bogie manufacturing capability, is non-existent.

If the British government wanted to establish the UK as a centre of rail engineering, it would be using its existing railways as a showcase for domestic technology. Why would countries such as Russia or Brazil choose to equip their railways with British trains, when non-British equipment dominates Britain’s own railways?

Country 2014 domestic rail
manufacturing capability
Commuter Intercity Locos Highspeed Trams
Germany
France
Russia no
Italy
Spain
Great Britain no no no no
Poland no
(assembly is not manufacture)
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Written by beleben

January 8, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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