China interested in “wholesale package” for HS2 as rail boss meets builders and operators in Beijing

The man in charge of delivering the UK’s controversial high-speed railway, HS2, traveled to Beijing this month to meet China’s biggest state-owned railway builders and operators, with China reported to be interested in providing a "wholesale package" to build it.

HS2 Ltd. chief executive Mark Thurston (HS2 Ltd.)

According to a statement on the website of China’s main planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), HS2 Ltd.’s chief executive Mark Thurston met China Railway Corporation, the country’s high-speed rail network operator, and CRRC, its rolling stock manufacturer, reports South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Also at the meeting were China’s two state-owned railway builders, China Railway Construction Corporation and China Railway Group. Signal developer China Railway Signal and Communication Corporation was also there.

The NDRC did not describe the content of the meeting but, according to Hong Kong-based SCMP, its statement suggested "China’s interest in providing a wholesale package to build" HS2.

HS2 Ltd confirmed the meeting to GCR, saying Thurston visited China, Japan and Hong Kong to meet with companies developing and operating high speed networks in meetings hosted by the British Embassy and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said: "As we develop our plans, and start to build Britain’s new high speed railway, it’s important for us to learn from existing high speed rail networks in other countries.

"Countries such as China and Japan have extensive experience in building thousands of kilometres of high speed rail, and are reaping the economic benefits of their investment. Their knowledge and understanding of core elements such as station design, maintenance and operational processes will help us build the best possible railway for our country."

In 2015 then-UK chancellor George Osborne provoked anger among opponents of HS2 by urging Chinese firms to bid for seven contracts together worth $18bn (£11.8bn) in the first phase of the taxpayer-funded mega scheme. 

Chinese firms are already competing to run HS2. In 2017 the Department for Transport shortlisted a joint venture of Chinese rail operator Guangshen Railway Company and Hong Kong metro operator MTR for the contract to operate the railway, along with two other joint ventures.  

Top image: High-speed trains wait at in Shanghai-Hongqiao station (ermell/CC BY-SA 3.0)

See also:

Anger at home as UK woos Chinese bidders for high-speed rail scheme  

Chinese firm shortlisted to run UK high-speed rail

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  1. I hope it does not go beyond interest

  2. I am amazed that the CEO of HS2 would even consider looking out the UK for a firm to build this project. The talent and know is in the UK already. Perhaps it is the project concept that is at fault and the staff of HS2. But then the real question is more likely why our we even considering this project when so much is required throughout the rest of the railway network.

  3. This HS2 scheme seems to go from bad to worse. Hardly anyone in the UK wants this project and it’s a classic case of a solution looking for a problem. The money needs to be invested in the entire UK network for the benefit of the nation’s passengers everywhere. This lavish scheme is totally misconceived and really should be scrapped. In fact, the more I read about it the more convinced I am that it’s an appalling waste of taxpayers’ cash.

  4. Why is it that the only people against HS2 appear to be those who have never studied the deep lying needs of our ageing railway infrastructure but simply read the headlines from those newspapers who have editorial staff living in the Chilterns? THe new line is absolutely vital to increase the capacity of routes from Scotland, Leeds, Manchester, West Midlands and London. There are only 2 lines of direct routes from Milton Keynes all the way through the West Midlands which means that no more trains can be squeezed in for freight or commuters whilst InterCity services soak up the modest capacity available. The tracks and infrastructure on the West Coast main line are time expired and incredibly expensive to upgrade whilst 125 mph trains are still being run at 4 minute intervals.
    I could add much more but suffice it to say that endless comparisons and calculations have been done by governments of both political parties and HS2 has received massive cross party support. It is now happening, with pre-construction work happening throughout the first phase of work from Birmingham to London.
    HS1 from Folkestone to London was built by French engineers and funded by Pension companies from Canada and elsewhere, so I see no problem in inviting the Chinese – who are the world’s leaders in building such lines – to fund HS2 and possibly to run it. This means that the British can pay modest sums to clear the route from obstacles and prepare the ground for the new works which would be paid for by the Chinese. This would save the Treasury some money now that the economy has been so weakened by the disaster of Brexit. Lease back funding is well established and the means of building the line will not change that much as the design is finalised and the British workers are being recruited to operate the machinery to bore the tunnels and cuttings imposed on the line for sound proofing. The main difference will be the funding and top level management
    The government has already allocated £40 billion over the next 5 years for modernising and maintaining the present railway infrastructure throughout the UK – and Network Rail could not spend any more in the next 5 years without serious disruption to passengers.
    So please do not rely on a few hysterical newspaper headlines, Many different transport experts have pulled the figures and reasoning to pieces and every time they look, the same answer crops up again. We need HS2 if we are to cope with increased demands from the economy for the next 50 years + and it is the best value for money taken as a whole life project.

  5. if this scheme is to go ahead, the whole project should be procured from the UK and overseas as a last resort.

    The Hong Kong MTR has myriad problems in Hong Kong and no experience of operating a high speed rail services and China’s high speed rail has an appalling safety record… why is HS2 even considering procurement and operating companies overseas??

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