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CRRC gives traction to China’s modern Silk Road

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched his country’s ‘One Belt and One Road’ initiative. This ambitious development program, worth an estimated 4 trillion euros, aims to create a modern Silk Road, stimulating trade and kick-starting economic growth in more than 60 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Together with China, these countries account for 62 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of its economic output.


The initiative is founded on massive infrastructure projects covering transport and energy, including roads, railways – such as a 3,000 km high-speed connection between China and Singapore - ports, bridges, pipelines and power plants.

One of China’s key assets in the Belt and Road program is China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), the state-owned rolling stock manufacturer and one of the country’s great industrial success stories. With an annual turnover of 28 billion euros, CRRC is bigger than its main rivals - Alstom, Bombardier, Hitachi, Kawasaki and Siemens - combined. It has more than 180,000 employees and 46 subsidiaries across China, and exports to 102 countries, selling products that cover the full spectrum of rolling stock - subways and metro trains, railway trains, TGVs and locomotives.

To understand how far China’s rail industry has grown in a short time, in the past 15 to 20 years it has completed the world’s largest high-speed network, which at a total length of 22,000 km is 11 times the size of the French rail system.
In addition to its domestic market, CRRC is now a major global player, especially in urban and suburban trains. For example, it has recently won an order to supply 846 new rail cars for the Chicago Transit Authority. At over 1 billion euros this is the largest contract ever won in the U.S. by a Chinese company in this sector. To fulfil the contract, CRRC is setting up its own assembly plant in Chicago.

Saft’s successful track record with CRRC

As part of our own ongoing initiative in China, we have a long-standing working relationship with CRRC. This has seen the successful delivery of Saft batteries for major metro projects such as Chengdu and Nanchang, Beijing Metro Line 6 and the new West Island Line on the Hong Kong MTR system. Saft batteries have also been integrated in CRRC export projects including metro trains for Ankara in Turkey as well as commuter trains for Malaysia.

In the high-speed sector, our batteries feature on the CRH5 Bullet Electric Multiple Units destined for the new Lanxin line that traverses three provinces in Northwest China.

Maintaining a world-class service for the Hong Kong MTR metro

Most recently, we were awarded a five-year multi-million euro contract to supply specialized SRM nickel-technology batteries for new eight-car MTR metro trains under construction by CRRC. The batteries will maintain a world-class service for passengers on the new trains. Should a train lose its main power supply the batteries will take over seamlessly to power lighting, air conditioning and door-opening systems as well as new dynamic route maps.

The Hong Kong MTR carries over 5.5 million passengers every day. It is regarded as one of the world’s leading metro systems for safety, reliability, customer service and cost efficiency. To maintain this exceptional level of performance, 93 new trains have been ordered to replace all the first-generation trains on the Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island and Tseung Kwan O lines. The new trains, featuring more modern operating systems and equipment, will be delivered between 2018 and 2023.

We are building the new MTR trains to offer world class levels of performance, reliability and safety. That is why we have specified Saft batteries to provide the onboard backup due to their proven capability in even the most demanding rail applications worldwide.

Zhang Xiaoming eputy General Manager Overseas business division of CRRC Sifang Co. Ltd

The Saft batteries will provide the new MTR trains with up to 60 minutes of backup power to support vital control and safety functions. The SRM cells are designed for extreme reliability as well as enabling the batteries to be 20 percent smaller and lighter than lead-acid batteries of similar performance. Their nickel-based technology does not suffer “sudden death” failure and can provide a long service life of up to 15 years while requiring minimal maintenance. MTR has specified the SRM cells in a steel casing that meets the highest fire-proof standards.

“This prestigious project for the Hong Kong MTR confirms that Saft rail batteries are the first choice when safety, reliability and performance are critical factors” said Philippe Ulrich, Saft General Manager & Director of Sales Asia. “The contract extends a long-running association with the Hong Kong MTR as we have previously supplied batteries for trains on the West Island line and are currently delivering a contract for refurbished trains in the New Territories.”

Saft’s cells for CRRC are designed and manufactured in our Bordeaux factory in France, and the batteries are assembled locally in the Saft Zhuhai factory in China.