China Focus: China’s electric locomotive manufacturing sector on fast track

CHANGSHA, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — China’s electric locomotive making industry is on fast track, as demonstrated by the quickly expanding business of one of its major manufacturers.

According to the latest figures from CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co. Ltd (ZLCL), a rail transit equipment maker and subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.(CRRC), the value of its orders in the last five years exceeded 45.5 billion yuan (6.6 billion U.S. dollars).

Now the Zhuzhou-based company, located in central China’s Hunan Province, is enjoying huge success.

ZLCL was established in 1936, specializing in repairing imported steam locomotives. In 1978, as China started reform and opening-up, ZLCL began shifting its focus to making electric locomotives. It managed to make a signature product, the Shaoshan electric locomotive, which paved the way for China’s rail transport to go electric.

As the technology behind the Shaoshan brand matured, the locomotives became widely used in China’s rail transportation system. Even today, many regular trains in China are still equipped with such locomotives.

“In the first 20 years after the reform and opening-up were launched, ZLCL concentrated a lot on research and development of the Shaoshan series, which became a major part of China’s locomotive-making history,” said Liu Youmei, with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Meanwhile, many spin-off companies were also born during the stage of ZLCL’s development, including those in train making and in core part making.

Approaching the new millennium, ZLCL’s technology experienced an upgrade, with direct-current drive upgraded to alternating-current drive, ordinary trains transformed into high-speed trains and light-loaded trains into heavy-loaded trains.

In 2006, a new locomotive model jointly developed by ZLCL and Siemens was launched. Two years later, the models were heavily used to carry coal to the south of China, where a snow disaster had struck.

ZLCL also sped up its business overseas. It developed high-speed trains for Malaysia, which were the fastest running trains on meter-gauge railway. The order was also the biggest among all of China’s exported high-speed trains. In 2014 and 2016, ZLCL exported its high-speed trains to Macedonia and the Czech Republic, respectively, winning international recognition.

More subway trains are being manufactured in ZLCL’s factories and will be delivered to Chinese cities like Guangzhou, Nanning and Kunming as well as to other countries in the future.

Even on hot summer days in India, China-made subway trains operate perfectly, said an Indian buyer, adding they are probably the best performing subway trains in India.

Rail transit is about high-end equipment making, and is an important symbol of China-made equipment “going overseas”, said ZLCL president Zhou Qinghe.

“I will do my best for ZLCL,” said Yang Ying, 53, a deputy chief engineer with ZLCL who has worked for the company for 30 years. “We will try to make more China-made quality equipment for the world.”

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