China Railway Rolling Stock (CRRC) has announced that it is working on an "intercontinental" high-speed train with two decks: an upper for passengers and a lower for freight.
The company presented the model at the InnoTrans trade show in Berlin, which ended yesterday.
The idea is to make the train more like a passenger aircraft, with the cargo space used to transport luggage, high-value products and express parcels. According to CRRC, the train can deal with harsh environments and will be compatible with railway systems in different countries. The aim is to produce trains that can operate on continent-sized networks, such as the one envisaged for Central Asia, Iran and Europe.
Railway Gazette reports that five prototypes of the "Intercon" are already in operation in China. CRRC expects to start full-scale production before the end of this year, and a 250km/h variant is expected to enter service in 2017.
CRRC also demonstrated a "smart window" concept, in which passengers can access information using a touch-screen heads-up display.
Earlier this month, the completion of a line between Zhengzhou in central China with Xuzhou, north of Shanghai, brought the total length of the domestic high-speed network to 20,000km.
Huang Xin of the China Railway Corporation told Xinhua agency that the first 10,000km of the system took 11 years to build, after which it doubled in three years, and is expected to double again by 2025, before reaching 45,000km in 2030.
During the InnoTrans conference, China Railway group announced that this doubling would take the form of eight north-south corridors and eight east-west routes.
Image: The double-decker is a variant of the CRH family of trains. This is the first-class cabin of a CRH3 (Creative Commons)