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China's rolling stock makers focus on emerging nations

This Chinese electric locomotive is the same type as those exported to Uzbekistan. The locomotives have been modified for cold weather.

DALIAN, China -- China's two biggest rolling stock manufacturers are looking to emerging economies to boost business, particularly to Asia and Africa.

     China CNR and CSR produce locomotives, cars and subways. Most of their technologies are based on those acquired from Japan and other countries, but both are also developing their own models that are tailored to the climates of purchasing nations.

     Both companies have seen major drops in domestic demand since a major high-speed rail accident in China in 2011.

Special services    

Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock, the core of the CNR group, recently supplied 11 electric locomotives to Uzbekistan's state-run railway. The $45 million deal represented the first export of electric-powered engines for the company, which primarily manufactures diesel locomotives. The company met the order by procuring parts for voltage conversion, train control and other electrical mechanisms from Dalian Toshiba Locomotive Electric Equipment, a joint venture established in 2002 with the Japanese electrical machinery maker Toshiba.

     The 11 locomotives, each capable of a maximum speed of 120kph, are designed for both passenger and freight train use. The locomotives use cold-resistant rubber and oil as winter temperatures in Uzbekistan often reach minus 20 C.

     In another deal, Dalian Locomotive last autumn exported three sets of subway cars to Iran. The company developed the 15 cars on its own, using carbon steel to make them theoretically usable for 35 years through snow, wind, rain and other harsh weather found in the Middle East. To adhere to Islamic regulations, the first and last cars of each train are designed for use by female passengers only.

     Dalian Locomotive originated from the rolling stock plant of South Manchuria Railway founded by Imperial Japan in the early 20th century. The plant manufactured the Asia Express locomotive used in the northeastern region of China.

     Qingdao Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock, which belongs to CSR, shipped the first of 10 passenger cars to Iraq in February for a train that will run between Baghdad and the southern city of Basra, which will travel at a maximum speed of 160kph. The order is valued at $115 million.

Just getting started

These two Chinese rolling stock makers are also active exporters to Africa. CNR has already shipped diesel locomotives to African nations rich in natural resources, including Angola, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

     These locomotives are equipped with special features to handle the climates of the areas they serve, such as having screens on window roofs to keep out sand. The rolling stock for Angola has control panels in Portuguese, the official language of the country.

     CSR, meanwhile, has shipped electric locomotives for freight cars to South Africa.

     The two groups are also stepping up marketing of their products to advanced nations.

     Dalian Locomotive will supply New Zealand's KiwiRail with 48 cars, including powerful diesel locomotives with an output capacity of 2,700kW. The order also includes after-sales services such as regular service inspections.

     China's Ministry of Railways used to be in charge of rolling stock production. The operation was divided into CNR and CSR in the 2000s to assist the rapid construction of railway networks in the country. But business has all but halted in China since the 2011 accident. Many of the countries that have purchased Chinese rolling stock are also countries that have received top-level visits from Chinese leaders, an indication that these visits help seal such deals.

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