China’s first privately owned railway to pioneer end-to-end AI

China’s first part privately-funded railway, a 269km link between Hangzhou near Shanghai and the city of Taizhou, will be the country’s first railway to be run by artificial intelligence (AI).

The $6.5bn high-speed link is being built by Hangzhou-Shaoxing-Taizhou Rail (HSTR). On Wednesday, 17 July, HSTR signed a contract with China Railway Gecent Technology (CRGT) to use AI and the Internet of Things to help manage the system, China Daily reports.

The idea is to use AI to manage passenger flows through stations, change lighting levels, direct vehicle drivers to the best parking spaces and control advertisement billboards.

CRGT is a joint venture set up by state-owned China Railway Investment, which holds a controlling 51% state, and carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holdings and tech firm Tencent Holdings. Its main business is to set up and run Wi-Fi systems on China’s high-speed rail network. In September, it released a smartphone application that gives passengers access to online entertainment and food delivery orders. It has around 10 million subscribers in China.

Pan Yunbin, the chief executive of CRGT, said his company would deploy "the most advanced information and communication technology available now" to build the new rail line. He added that the use of AI to control the distribution of electricity could cut bills by one third.

Work on the rail line, the first public-private rail partnership in China, began in late 2017 and is now 35% complete. The project is due to become operational in 2021.

When complete, the project will be owned by a consortium of eight private companies led by Shanghai-based conglomerate Fosun International, which will take a 51% stake in the project’s registered capital of $1.8bn.

It is the first of eight planned public-private partnership high-speed rail schemes in China that have been approved by the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic regulator.

Image: The rapidly expanding east-coast city of Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, will be the terminus of the high-speed rail line in 2021

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