Traffic jam for China railroads

Traffic jam for China railroads

China has raised speeds on many of its main rail routes, but that doesn't appear to be doing much to clear substantial backlogs of freight amid a 35 percent jump in demand for space on trains.

The acceleration over the last month was intended to speed cargo movement and increase total freight capacity by 3 percent, according to the Ministry of Railways. A spokesman acknowledges that, so far, it hasn't shown much impact.

Most sections of the key north-south Beijing-Guangzhou line and the route from Lanzhou in north-central Gansu province to the Port of Lianyungang on the coast above Shanghai are running at above 90 percent of capacity, and at 100 percent in some areas.

Demand on the Beijing-Shanghai route exceeds capacity by 50 percent, according to Wu Qiang, director of the freight bureau at the ministry.

The east-west line from Datong to the Port of Qinhuangdao, a main northern coal route with design capacity of 100 million tons, carried 120 million tons last year and is forecast to handle 150 million tons this year, he said.

Ministry statistics cited in the official China Daily show demand has surged to 300,000 freight cars a day in recent months, up from 160,000 last year. The rail network is designed to handle about 100,000 cars a day.

Services have been delayed, and some customers are shifting to trucks, according to published reports.

The ministry plans to increase train speeds and capacity for a sixth time next year. Trains will run as fast as 125 mph on some trunk lines, the spokesman said, and available rail capacity will be expanded by the end of 2020 to 100,000 kilometers (62,000 miles) from the current 73,000 kilometers.

Cargo and passenger transport are also being gradually separated, to clear routes for freight traffic.