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Reviewing China's High-Speed Rail Development Experiences

The World Bank has officially launched a report titled China's High-Speed Rail Development in Beijing on September 9, offering a comprehensive review of key success experiences in service designs, markets, construction, finance and economics of China's over 25,000-km high-speed railway network. 

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The report finds that since the opening of the first HSR line in 2008, total rail passenger volume has grown at a rate of 8.5% per year, leading to a significant change in traffic composition. Meanwhile, HSR is highly competitive with other modes for trip distances between 150 and 800 km. China's HSR ticket prices are also low compared to other transport modes and other countries.

"Standardized designs and procedures have been one of the key success factors of China’s HSR network, which greatly reduced construction costs and ensured safety," said Martha Lawrence, World Bank Senior Transport Specialist and co-author of the report. 

The economic rate of return of the network as it was in 2015 is estimated at 8 percent, well above the opportunity cost of capital adopted in China and most other countries for such major long-term infrastructure investments, according to Lawrence.

"China has accumulated considerable experience in constructing and operating high-speed rails. The Chinese experience is relevant for world bank clients looking for sustainable solution to transport development challenges," said Harold L. Bedoya, World Bank's Acting Country Director for China.

The network now has 1.7 billion passengers per year and an arrival punctuality rate over 95%. The FIRR of the network is estimated to be 6%, while the EIRR is estimated at 8%.

Zhang Dawei, deputy director general of comprehensive planning department at Ministry of Transport, said China's HSR development benefited from a sound planning system, which also attaches high importance on timely adjustment. 

Qiu Gefei, deputy director general at China Railway Corporation, said China's HSR network is a result of combined efforts to optimize existing lines and build new HSR lines linking key cities and city clusters.

Li Liancheng, deputy director general of Institute of Comprehensive Transportation, said in recent years, 60 percent trips by Chinese public are made via HSR network, suggesting an increasing acceptance and preference for the HSR. 

Nie Yinjie, chief engineer at China Railway Design Corporation said China is experimenting with new design ideas for HSR network. For instance, HSR stations are better linked with other transport mode to improve connect efficiency. Meanwhile, the operations of HSR network are also getting more environment-friendly and smart.

Yang Fei, chief of railway finance division at China Development Bank, said HSR network has brought a lot of benefits to cities along HSR lines.

This report is the first of a series of studies in five areas of transport - high-speed rail, highways, urban transport, ports, and inland waterways, produced by TransFORM, a knowledge platform created by the World Bank and China's Ministry of Transport to share Chinese and international transport experiences and facilitate learning within China and other World Bank client countries.