This is the largest high speed rail network ever constructed in the world. With a total length of 20,000km, much more than all other HSR networks on the planet combined. It links together more than a hundred cities, covering a total population of more than 700 million people. Each year, it facilitates trillions of dollars of economic activities. The trains running on this network at 300km/h are among the most technologically advanced one in the world. From the snow-covered plateaus to tropical islands, this huge network keeps running at high speed every single day. At the same time, thanks to highly efficient and rapid building capabilities, the network is in constant expansion. This is China’s most ambitious mega-project. It is not an end, but a new beginning. (Guangzhou, Guangdong Province) Chinese New Year.
As the traditional holiday approaches, the largest annual migration of population on the planet is about to begin. During a period of 40 days, more than 3 billion people will travel. The equivalent of half the world’s population will have to be transported. This is the ultimate test of a country’s transportation network. The ever-crowded Guangzhou Railway Station has become the symbol of Chunyun, the Spring Festival travel season. This kind of scene may soon become a thing of the past. A new solution is rapidly improving the transport situation. Unlike Guangzhou Railway Station which is served by trains running at conventional speed, Guangzhou South Railway Station, 17km away, is exclusively linked by high-speed trains. Control center of Guangzhou South.
Dong Xiaoling, train dispatcher on duty, carefully watches the monitors showing train movements. In a period of 10 minutes between and 8:30, there are 15 departures and arrivals carrying 6,400 people. The peak daily number of travellers is more than 280,000. This performance is made possible by higher speed, higher efficiency and larger scales of operation. Guangzhou is only an example among many others on the gargantuan CRH network. The same improvements can be seen in every single one of the 100+ cities linked by CRH. High speed rail has definitely become the most important means of passenger transportation. With only one sixth of the total length of chinese railroads, it carries more than 60% of all railway passengers. Traditional rail is rapidly being replaced by high speed rail. Overcrowding and long waits are disappearing. (Qingdao, Shandong province) Every morning, hundreds of busses bring in thousands of workers to this mega-factory in the suburbs of Qingdao, in eastern China. This is the biggest production center of high-speed trains in the world. Half of the high-speed trains in China are designed and built here.
In an area of 10km² around here, more than 200 factories supply 40,000 parts to be assembled here. Welding of the locomotive is one of the crucial steps in the construction of a train set. 72 pieces of special aluminium alloy are seamlessly welded together. Automatic robots can weld at a speed of 70cm per minute A train set with 8 cars necessitates 18.4km of welding. Most of the work is done by robots to ensure the precision of the weld. The production process of the bogies is another secret of the overall process. The quality of the bogies directly affect the safety of the high-speed trains. Especially for its central component: the axle. The hollow axles are carefully machined to precisions within 0.1mm In the factory with an area of million m² 32 workshops are producing at a fast pace every day. This gigantic factory can deliver 3 train sets every 4 days to the CRH network. This new type of train has reached a top speed of 486km/h.
It is the highest speed ever attained in the world on a line in commercial use. Ding Sansan is the chief designer for this type of train. He is also the vice-engineer in chief of this facility. Aerodynamics was mostly the concern of aerospace engineers in the past. Now it is also the principal preoccupation of Ding Sansan and his team. In the design process, the first problem we had to solve was the aerodynamics.
When the train runs at 300-350km/h, the resistance encountered by the train are almost entirely from the air. A top speed of 380km/h is almost the low cruise speed of an airplane. But unlike the airplane, the train must also deal with turbulent flow near the ground, the shockwave when encountering another train, and sudden changes in pressure when going through a tunnel. The train can be compared to a plane fuselage flying on the ground but facing more complicated conditions than in the sky. The train body designed by Ding Sansan and his team is already among the most aerodynamically performant one in the world. Yet they decided to chanllenge themselves to further optimize the design solution. With the help of advanced CAD technologies, they calculated many solutions that are theoretically optimal.
But whether the theoretical solution is truly a good one depend on the conclusions of a crucial test (Mianyang, Sichuan Province) 2000km away in the heartland of south-western China, there is a world-leading wind tunnel facility. Rockets, airplanes and all other technological products that need top-level aerodynamic performance must put their design to the test here. The project being tested today is the new locomotive designed by Ding Sansan and his team. They must complete the testing as fast as possible. A scaled model of the train is carefully lowered into the tunnel They hope that this test will show a 6% diminition in drag for the train.
Pr. Chen Dawei is a capable assistant of Ding Sansan. He is only in his 30s, but he is already working an industry-leading research team. With the exponential growth of high-speed rail, China today has the youngest, most energetic researchers and engineers in the field. The test results came as a disappointment for the team. The test data were significantly different than the theoretical values. They need to rapidly find the reason for it. It will be a long control process. Another sleepless night. The tape came off a little bit here.
This could have disturbed the results greatly. They seem to have found the problem. After 18 hours, the test can officially begin. The test speed will be 486.1km/h, the highest in the world. The vibrations are much lower than before The final test results are satisfactory Not only was drag reduced by 6%, other key parameters also improved. The test was a success. In the future, aerodynamically optimized train structures will be designed and built It will have more structural strength, smoother surface, and better isolation.
Those performances can proudly be displayed on the podium of the global train industry. Last year, this factory produced more than 200 new high-speed trains They will play their part in building an even greater HSR network for China. The CRH network is still expanding at a rate of 2000km/year. It is planned that the network will reach a total length of 38,000km in 2025. In order to build a truly interconnected network, a few trunk routes must be built before all others. The Shanghai-Kunming HSR is one of these important corridors. With a length of 2266km, it creates a close link between the well-developed eastern China and the south-eastern provinces The opening of this line is an important achievement for the high-speed rail project of China. The works on the Shanghai-Kunming line are progressing rapidly.
Even though Chinese HSR technology and construction technics are already at a world-leading level, the finer details of high-speed rail construction remain subjects of intensive research for Chinese engineers. Beijing, 2000kms away, an important experiment is underway. On a 10m-high platform, a flywheel 10 tons in weight, 3m in diameter is about to be set in motion. This is the most advanced testing equipment for high-speed trains in the world. Its aim is to test how well the train wheels roll on the steel rails during high-speed operation. This giant flywheel will be accelerated to reach a speed of more than 500km/h. The objective is to push the train to the limit of its envelope. Wang Junbiao and his team are making the final adjustments before the test. The subject of today’s testing is to evaluate wheel wear under high-speed operations. The relationship between wheel and rail is a problem that must be clearly understood before all others in rail transportation. Whether high-speed cruise or braking, everything in railroad operations is achieved through contact between the wheels and the rails.
Today’s experiment aims to understant the wearing of wheels and rails Because wear will change the form of the wheel surface which will have negative effects on the rails, the ballast and the line in general. A high-speed train weights more than 460 tons and travels at more than 300km/h. Yet the surface of contact between the train and the rails is only about 100mm², which is an area smaller than a fingernail. This nail-sized surface must support complex loads that change over time, so the rail surfaces must be absolutely flat. Because when the trains is at full speed, if there is a bump on the rail with the thickness of two human hairs, the force of the shock between the wheel and the rail will be 7 tons. That sudden force will be catastrophic for a high-speed train. To avoid these kinds of situations, installations of rails on high-speed railways must be seamless.
So how is it possible to achieve a truly seamless weld between two rails? Wuhu, Anhui province. Here is one of the biggest rail-welding facilities in China. To keep the amount of welding to a minimum, individual steel rails already have an incredible length of 100m when they leave their factory. It is 8 times the length of traditional steel rails. After these rails have been delivered to the welding facility, welding machines will increase their length by 5 times. In the welding workshop, two rails are put together and heated to more than 1000° by an electric current. Then they are permanently joined by pressure.
Then, the weld point is precisely polished and measured by a special lathe designed by the construction teams. At the end of the process, the flatness of the joint will be within a tenth of a millimeter which is the greatest precision attained by the rail-welding industry in the world. The next problem is, how to transport and install this welded rail at a far-away location as it is already over 500m-long? From a distance, a 500m-long steel rail semms as soft as a noodle. If the lifting equipments are not synchronized, the rail will be deformed and its internal structure affected which will greatly impact its quality. The welding teams have found a solution to this problem. The lifting is performed using 36 overhead cranes simultaneously. We use our own proprietary technology, which is internationaly patented. It can achieve a precision of 10mm both vertically and horizontally which is the highest precision in the world. Hundreds of rails are stacked together, 36 overhead cranes stand in formation. Soon all these rails will be transported to the construction site to be welded together to form one single seamless rail.
This facility alone has welded over 5000km of high-speed rails. And there are 11 more sites like this one ine China. These welded rails are ready for expedition, to be put to use on the ever-growing CRH network, to build one seamless transportation network. Today, Wang Fuchun will take the Beijing-Shanghai HSR to take part in a photography conference. As a photographer, his fame was established by a series of works spanning 20 year. The series is called “The Chinese on the Train” Look at him smoking his water pipe That’s all gone today. This smoking guy saw me when I was going to press the shutter This series recorded 20 years of real life for Chinese people on trains, as well as the huge societal changes that they experienced during that time. But change does not come easy. The Beijing-Shanghai HSR, with a length of 1318km, connects the two most important cities of China: the political capital Beijing and the economic capital Shanghai. Two megalopoles each with a population of more than 20 million. Liking these cities together is of great significance for the economy and society of China. It is the single most important segment in the CRH network.
Yet its construction was far from easy. First, we must consider its geological situation. It is built on a great floodplain so we must address the problem of soil deformation. Secondly, the line crosses many rivers, canals, and existing transportation infrastructures. It crosses more than 100 rivers of more than 20m in width, more than 150 roads of various grades, and the existing Beijing-Shanghai railway. Eastern China is the economic powerhouse of the country. But it is also an area with a dense network of rivers, lakes and canals. The southern part of the Beijing-Shanghai HSR is situated in this region. In this complex environment, building a railway line as straight as possible while guaranteeing the stability of its fundations is no easy task for the construction team.
Chinese engineers devised their own ingeneous solution. This 500 tons self-moving bridge laying machine can lift a bridge span twice its own weight. This unique integrated design allows for one machine to single-handedly lay a bridge span between two pylons. Crossing tunnels with ease and laying bridges of various spans. It’s the masterpiece of Chinese engineers. With this unbeatable bridge-building capacity, the construction teams decided to abandon traditional railway fundations in favor of laying the entire railway on viaducts. The Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge is currently the longest bridge in the world with a total length of 164 km, and more than 4000 spans. Not only is the entire railway laid on bridges, the stations are elevated as well. But the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge is only one of the engineering marvels along the line. 80% of the 1318km-long line is elevated. the fundations of the bridge pillars reach the bedrock at tens of meter deep.
This allowed for line deformations to be kept within millimeters. 2am. Zhu Huajun and his collegues must routinely control the subsidence of the line on the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge during the times when the railway is at rest. Within 2 hours, they must obtain the subsidence data for 16km of railroad. The various data shown by the machines show that all parameter of the bridge are satisfactory. The train served by Zhang Ping and her team is about to depart from Beijing. In less than 5 hours they will arrive at Shanghai, more than 1300km away. The high-speed trains between Beijing and Shanghai transport more than 100 million people each year. With a departure interval of only 3 minutes in the busiest times. This makes the Beijing-Shanghai HSR the most densely used and also the most profitable high-speed line in the world. Under such a heavy usage the safety of operation is guaranteed by the most advanced system of train control and management in the world. This is one of the CRH control centers, the Control and Dispatching center of Shanghai Railway Bureau.
Its surface is 20,000m², or the equivalent of 3 soccer fields. For the 2016 Spring Festival Travel Season, we opened up to 150 pairs of temporary trains at peak times. Just on the Beijing-Shanghai HSR, the daily ridership is reaching 300,000 people. Including the Beijing-Shanghai HSR, more than 4100 trains are monitored here every day. The trains served by Zhang Ping is only showing as a moving light point on this board. This monitor shows all trains currently running on the Beijing-Shanghai HSR. From Beijing South to Shanghai Hongqiao. The speed is now 300km/h. The entire dispatching system is conceived independently by China. From here, the dispatchers can monitor 663 stations and more than 40 lines of the Shanghai Railway Bureau. They are also surveilling the condition of every bridge and tunnel on those lines, and even real-time data such as axle temperature and running speed on each train. Under the condition of guaranteeing safety, the dispatchers must increase the efficiency of each line to the maximum.
But they must also constantly face another considerable challenge: the ever-changing weather. Ahead of Zhang Ping’s train, the weather conditions are not looking good. Typhoon “Nepertak” is bringing heady storms to all of eastern China. The CRH weather monitoring system begins to issue constant alerts. Including Zhang Ping’s G17 train, six high-speed trains are entering areas affected by the typhoon. After the alert is issued, dispatchers must give orders to train conductors according to the current weather situation to guide them to their destination. At the same time they must rapidly devise adjustments to the timetable. At this moment on the Beijing-Shanghai HSR, more than 50 monitoring sites are updating data on wind speed and rainfall.
All data are transmitted within milliseconds to the Shanghai control center and all other centers in the country. As they successfully cleared the typhoon zone, train G17 finally reached its destination, Shanghai. On the CRH network, there are 17 more control centers like this one. 20,000km of HSR, more than 4200 trains each day, constantly facing complex geological and climatic challenges. It is a challenge never seen anywhere before. But those challenges allowed China to accumulate great quantities of experience at an unprecedented level. After a day of work, the train can finally rest and take a good shower.
Some routine tests are also performed. (Kunming, Yunnan province) 20 steel rails, each 500m long, weighting 30 tons, arrived at the construction site in special trains. Track-laying works in Yunnan are about to begin. But a big problem must be solved by Chinese engineers before works can begin. 500m-long rails must be laid and welded to form one single 2245km-long rail. A rail this long is under tremendous stress due to temperature differences in different regions it goes through. But it is not yet the most extreme case.
The Lanzhou-Xinjiang HSR, with a length of 1776km, must face an even greater challenge. In a single day, it goes though deserts and snow-covered mountains with a temperature difference up to 80°. Under this kind of immense stress, a crucial component is needed to reliably fix the rails on the sleepers. Chinese engineers have once again found the solution. Using special steel alloys, bent to carefully studied curves, with appropriate amount of strength and elasticity, these fixtures are machined in a highly automated process After 60,000 of fatigue testing, Chinese engineers proved that these fixtures can solve the problem of reactive force encountered by the rails Track-laying has finally begun on the Shanghai-Kunming HSR. It is now progressing at a pace of 6km/day toward Kunming.
At the same time the electrical and signaling systems are also being built. With this kind of progression speed, Chinese builders are now without doubt the frontrunners in the field of HSR construction. They can even get the work done twice as fast as their competitors. From its very beginning, high-speed rail had to face an enormous challenge The challenge comes from the roof of the trains High-speed trains are powered by electricity Electricity is delivered from the grid through overhead lines and the current is collected by the train through its pantograph During high-speed operation, the friction between the pantograph and the line is intense Also, turbulence, vibrations and atmospheric disturbances all can affect the electrical contact This is a problem that all high-speed trains in the world must face Research and optimization efforts are still ongoing today.
In the outskirts of Beijing, Chen Liming and his collegues ares about to start another experiment It aims to simulate the contact between the pantograph and the overhead line during high-speed operations This huge machine will accelerate to a speed of 530km/h and it will also simulate complex phenomenons such as vibrations and turbulences Today’s test focuses on a new material for the contact surface of the pantograph On the Shanghai-Kunming HSR 2000km away, All tracks on the southern part of the line has been laid and workers are finishing the construction of the stations. Yunnan, a mountaineous south-western province, is connected by HSR for the first time in its history But a strict evaluation still has to be conducted before the line becomes operational Hou Fuguo and his team are the ultimate quality controllers of the newly-built line Before a new line opens, they will rigorously check the entine length of the line as well as its systems The train that they use has been given a bright yellow colour People call it the “Yellow Doctor” The “yellow doctor” is equipped with over 30 cameras and more than 300 sensors It will detect any small defect on the railway The train will run back and forth on the new line over the next 30 days Today, the new pantograph material developed by Chen Liming’s team is also being tested in real conditions here The complex environment and unpredictable weather are continually testing the reliability of the material The test data are being precisely recorded (techno mumbo-jumbo) The results are satisfactory It is proven that the new material has a lower friction coefficient and better conductivity Today, Chinese engineers never cease their effort to improve their HSR technology In the forseeable future, more and more new technologies will be put to use on China’s great HSR network At this morning, two standard CRH trains went past each other at more than 420km/h on the newly-built Zhengzhou-Xuzhou HSR The relative speed between the two trains is 840km/h and the encounter lasted only two seconds This speed broke another world record And after testing, this line will also be integrated into the CRH network It will connect the two main corridors of the CRH network Zhengzhou East railway station at night The last train of the day has left the empty station In the control room, people have been waiting for this window after the daily operations because today the Zhengzhou-Xuzhou HSR is officially being integrated into the network They only have 30 minutes to accomplish their mission We have 30 minutes to uninstall the old equipment in this room and install the new system The equipment outside must be uninstalled as well They were still in use 30 minutes before They must be changed during the little amount of time we have Guo Ruixing and his collegues have to change 2,534 wires during those 30 minutes In the same time they must change 209 pieces of equipment outside and upgrade 58 softwares The whole process is timed to the second Any wrong connection means that all the railway lines going through this station will be paralyzed tomorrow It’s like finishing in 30 minutes an open-brain surgery which allows for no mistake To prepare for this surgery Guo Ruixing and his collegues have repeated the procedure over a thousand times At the Sifang Factory in Qingdao the construction of the train sets for the Shanghai-Kunming HSR are approaching completion Everyone is waiting for the delivery of a core component Because everyone know that only after its installation can the train be truly put to use The production process and parameters of this component are the most tightly-guarded trade secrets of the high-speed train industry A 1000km away in Zhuzhou, central China This is the production facility for this core component Today, a camera will be allowed in this highly secretive zone for the first time Liu Shaojie, head of production will lead us into the most mysterious workshop of this huge factory But before that, a complicated ritual must be performed First we put on sterilized underwears, then the closed overall Anti-dust shoes, masks, gloves Then to decontamination The whole procedure takes more than 30 minutes Only when everything is perfectly done are we allowed to enter This is the workshop for producing this core component It is a level 10 cleanroom Which means that the number of dust microparticles in each cube meter of air must not exceed 10 This is a very harsh level of tolerance The name of this mysterious equipment is IGBT As we know, high-speed trains are powered by electricity and the IGBT is the processor that controls its complex electrical system Without exageration, it can be called the heart of the machine The 8-inch production line that Liu Shaojie oversees is the most advanced IGBT production line in the world Only two lines on the planet can achieve its precision As head of the IGBT workshop Liu Shanjie knows that any defect on this fingernail-sized chip will have fatal consequences for the train The chips produced here are the ones with the highest power level in the world Higher power means a more capable processor This new IGBT allowed new Chinese high-speed trains to reduce their energy consumption by 1/3 The trains with their processors installed are ready at last Now they will be put to the test On this section of HSR in northern China two trains will take part in an important test The results will be of highest importance for the CRH network The two trains are produced by two different companies in China They are of different types, with different control systems If they can successfully couple it will mean that all trains running on the CRH network will be integrated into an unique standard Under the new standard, two trains of different types will be able to run while coupled together Crossing the various regions and climates of China maximizing the efficiency of the network This standardization shows that the CRH network is a highly integrated one It will greatly help the development of China’s high-speed rail In 2025, the CRH network will have reached an astounding total length of 38,000km serving 240 mid-sized and big cities It will definitively change the concepts of distance and time for the people living on this land