UK opens bidding for rail contracts

By Huang Ge Source:Global Times Published: 2015-9-24 23:33:02

Chinese investment wanted in Britain and India

A high-speed train runs across a bridge in Rongjiang, Southwest China's Guizhou Province. Photo: IC

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced Thursday during his visit to China that bidding would be opened on contracts worth 12 billion pounds ($18 billion) to build a new high-speed rail line in the UK, in an effort to attract Chinese investment, Reuters reported Thursday.

On Sunday, Osborne led a delegation in a seven-day trip to China for the seventh China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue to strengthen bilateral economic and financial ties.

Reuters reported that the UK government is hoping Chinese firms will cooperate with firms in the UK, and is inviting bids for seven contracts in building the first phase of the high-speed rail line between northern England, the central Midlands and London.

China's Ministry of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment from the Global Times as of press time.

The rail line will connect London with Birmingham in central England, and the northern cities of Manchester and Leeds. The first phase is scheduled to be completed as of 2026 and the second phase in 2033.

Osborne will also seek China's support for investment projects worth 24 billion pounds in northern England, according to Reuters.

Osborne noted in a statement released by his office that the UK and China were coming into a "golden era of cooperation."

The British contracts represent a potential "first step into Europe's high-speed railway market for China, but there is a long way to go to build the rail link and [to decide] what standards to use," Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, told the Global Times Thursday.

Wang Mengshu, a rail expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that China has plenty of room to expand in the global railway sector, as it has advanced technology, standards and equipment.

A consortium led by a State-owned subsidiary of China Railway Group, a spin-off from the now defunct railway ministry, has won a bid to carry out a feasibility study on a high-speed rail line between India's capital New Delhi and the western Indian city of Mumbai, Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.

The rail line will be around 1,200 kilometers long, according to China Railway Group.

Since December 2014, India has also invited bids for feasibility studies on rail lines between Mumbai and the southern city of Chennai, and between New Delhi and the eastern city of Calcutta. A total of 12 firms from seven countries - including China, the US, Germany, France and Italy - have so far participated in the bidding, according to Xinhua News Agency.

"China has a lot of experience in building high-speed rail lines, and has an edge over foreign competitors because of the lower prices it offers," Wang told the Global Times on Thursday.

The global market now recognizes the strength of China's high-speed railway technology, Zhao said.

In recent years, China has significantly expanded its high-speed railway network, which is now the largest in the world, with about 17,000 kilometers of track in service as of the end of June, according to China Railway Group.

Shu Guozeng, deputy head of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, announced on September 17 that the first high-speed railway project in the US that involves Chinese investment has seen substantial progress, Xinhua News Agency reported.

According to the Xinhua report, US railway company Xpress West has formed a joint venture with China Railway International USA Co to build and operate the rail line, which will connect Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California.

Construction on the project is expected to start as early as September 2016.

Prospects in the North and South American markets are quite good, and Chinese companies have also invested around $7.5 billion in railway projects in Venezuela, Wang said.

In June, China signed an agreement with Russia to invest 129.43 billion yuan in a high-speed rail line between the capital Moscow and the city of Kazan, news portal reported on June 21.

The project in Russia marked the first overseas high-speed railway project for China, and it can be regarded as a breakthrough for China's railway sector, Wu Limin, deputy director of the overseas sales department of China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group, was quoted as saying in the report.

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