China’s High-Speed Bid for California
Oct. 22, 2014 - STATE-BACKED China CNR Corporation is making a pitch to sell its high-speed trains to California, signaling China’s growing export ambitions for such technology after building the world’s longest network in just seven years.
It marks the first concrete attempt by China to sell high-speed locomotives abroad and establish itself as a credible rival to sector leaders such as Germany’s Siemens, Canada’s Bombardier and Japan’s Kawasaki.
CNR, its unit Tangshan Railway and US-based SunGroup USA are submitting an expression of interest to California’s US$68 billion high-speed rail project for a contract to supply up to 95 trains that can travel up to 354 kilometres per hour, SunGroup said.
“We believe that high-speed rail is something that China does very well, and it’s a product that we can export across the world,” SunGroup spokesman Jonathan Sun said, adding that SunGroup, CNR and Tangshan Railway had been working together for four years.
Manufacturers are expected to send in expressions of interest by today’s deadline to the California High Speed Railway Authority, which will later issue formal requests for proposals. About a dozen firms from places such as Japan and Spain are expected to compete, it said.
California has been candid about its desire for Chinese investment in the 1,287-kilometer line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. US media reports said governor Jerry Brown met Chinese rail officials in April last year, including those from Tangshan Railway, to discuss the project.
No estimates for the contract’s value have been published, but in its 2014 business plan the California High Speed Railway Authority estimated each trainset would cost US$45 million, based on a purchase of 70 vehicles.
“We haven’t officially gone out to bid yet. This is us saying to the industry that we need trainsets. They have to meet these standards,” said Lisa Marie Alley, deputy director of public affairs at the High-Speed Rail Authority.
She added: “We’re asking: ‘Are you interested in learning more, and do you think you could do this for us?’”
China has made no secret of its desire to export its high-speed technology abroad, having built over 12,000 kilometers of track at home in less than a decade. CNR and CSR Corp are China’s largest locomotive makers, while China Railway Construction and China Railway Group build track.
The country has helped or indicated its interest to build thousands of kilometers of high-speed track in countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, though it has yet to sell a high-speed train abroad. Premier Li Keqiang has led a drive to promote the technology in Thailand, Britain, Russia and India.
A Chinese consortium was the only competitor to present a bid for a tender to build a 210-kilometer high-speed line in Mexico, the Mexican government said last week.
Project details published on SunGroup’s website show the consortium is putting forward the CRH380BL train, a model used on the Shanghai-Beijing line, which can travel as fast as 380kph.
Sun said an initial order would probably be about 18-20 trains and that they would open a factory to make the trains in California if they won the bid, as required by US law.