China is busy upgrading outdated rail systems and building new rail lines around the world. In Malaysia, a Chinese company is assembling trains to run on new or improved rail lines, providing jobs and boosting business in the process.
From Mombasa in East Africa to Malaysia in Southeast Asia, China is transforming transport in East Africa, financing and building several multibillion-dollar rail lines, including the Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya, which will later link to Uganda, and a line from Addis Ababa to Djibouti.
Southeast Asia is another region where State-owned Chinese rail companies are deeply involved. China worked on a rail link from China’s south through Laos and on to Bangkok, and is building a high-speed rail line in Indonesia.
But China’s involvement is greatest in Malaysia. Malaysia is building a new mass rapid transit system, electrifying and double tracking the main north-south rail line, and building a new rail line from the big ports on the country’s east coast, through the capital to the underdeveloped east coast.
China is involved in many of those projects, including financing and leading construction of the $14 billion East Coast Rail Link.
China Railway Rollingstock Corp (CRRC) has been assembling hundreds of train sets for Malaysia’s suburban rail, light rail and long distance electric train systems.
“Malaysia is not strong in railway equipment production. So entering Malaysia’s market, we bring new opportunities for Malaysia in this field,” said Jiang Zhengguang, general manager of CRRC.
CRRC hopes to start assembling trains for the whole Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region at its Malaysian base. But the undoubted prize for which China will compete with Japan, South Korea and European countries is the planned 350 km, $15 billion high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
There will be stiff competition. But experts say that China is playing a leading role in Malaysia and ASEAN’s rail upgrading drive.