High-speed China: voestalpine turnouts are pointing the way 2 minutes spent reading

High-speed China: voestalpine turnouts are pointing the way

Volkmar Held
As a freelance writer, Volkmar Held reports for voestalpine on topics that move people. The content of his stories ranges from archaeometallurgy to future technologies.

China is a country of superlatives, also in the railway sector. The newly extended high-speed network (HSN) in particular is becoming increasingly attractive—and voestalpine turnouts are playing a key role.

The network of networks

At currently 19,000 kilometers in length, the Chinese high-speed network is already the longest in the world—a dimension achieved in only 11 years. The network is scheduled to almost double in length by 2025, to around 38,000 km. The intention is to connect all major cities to the rail network. To ensure travel times are as short as possible, Chinese railway constructors are striving for the smoothest possible line layout, which is why 85% of the first HSN line from Beijing to Tianjin runs over elevated pillars.

Speeds >300

The high-speed network is designed for speeds of up to 350 km/h, although Chinese trains are still currently travelling at speeds of 300 km/h. However, even at this speed they transport 130 million passengers a year from Shanghai to Beijing in a maximum of six hours. The dense flows of high-speed trains are directed by 240 high-speed turnouts and voestalpine know-how.

Safety seeks experience

During its extensive planning and line construction activities the Chinese national railway has learnt to value the know-how offered by specialized companies. Since 2007 the voestalpine associated company CNTT Chinese New Turnout Technologies Co., Ltd. has been ensuring the essential supplies of high-speed turnouts needed to extend the network: each year CNTT delivers around 300 special turnouts designed for speeds of up to 350 km/h.

voestalpine Turnouts in China

Growth à la China

Eight “horizontal” and eight “vertical” axes ensure the uninterrupted flow of passengers between the regions. HSN construction has adopted the breathtakingly rapid pace typical in China:

  • 1980: Electric and diesel locomotives replace steam engines.
  • 1993: The average speed of a Chinese passenger train is around 45 km/h (source: Chinese National Geography.
  • 1997-2004: Selected lines upgraded for speeds of up to 160 km/h (7,700 km).
  • 2008: 117 km of the high-speed network—the first stretch between Beijing and Tianjin—starts operating.
  • 2011: 8,350 km are in operation.
  • 2016: 19,000 km are in operation.
  • 2020: 30,000 km planned (source: Wall Street Journal online, 20.7.2016).
  • 2025: 38,000 km planned (source: railwaygazette.com, 21.7.2016.).


Global high-speed networks
(according to the worldwide railway organization UIC, 2015)

  • China 19,000 km
  • Japan: 2,664 km
  • France: 2,036 km
  • Germany: 1,334 km
  • Russia: 645 km
  • Austria: 292 km
  • USA: 28 km
Volkmar Held