Lu Dongfu New Chinese Railway Chief

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Mr Lu Dongfu has replaced Mr Sheng Guangzu as the first-in-charge of China Railways, according to widespread reports on Chinese state-run news media, although China Railways Corporation has not yet confirmed this.

Updates:
21 October 2016: This update in Chinese on China Railways officially confirms the transfer of power took place. The transfer of power was arranged by top officials in the Chinese Communist Party’s Organisational Department. News of this was only released today.
14 October 2016: This report in Chinese confirms Lu’s new position, although only as the Communist Party chief of China Railways.

Lu Dongfu replaces Sheng Guangzu as the head of China Railways. Right now it is too early to guess what the new chief’s rail policy was, although he was formerly the head of the National Railway Bureau (alternatively known as the National Railway Administration).

Background Facts: Sheng Guangzu (盛光祖)

Sheng, who is to retire now, presided over China Railways, which was until March 2013 a government body known as the Ministry of Railways of the People’s Republic of China, during what was an extremely turbulent tenure.

News of his arrival on 12 February 2011 as the new rail minister came as a bombshell, as former Minister Liu Zhijun was ousted in a corruption scandal. Much less known in the HSR world, the future of China’s HSR development was closely watched, as Sheng gave “safety” a lot of attention, but initially did not comment on high speed rail. Within months after taking office, Sheng slowed trains down, downgraded a few lines being built, and allowed, rather controversially, some regular line trains onto track built for HSR trainsets capable of doing up to 250 km/h (157 mph). However, he was also present at the opening of two key HSR lines in 2011: the Beijing-Shanghai HSR in late June 2011, and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen HSR via Humen in December 2011.

High speed rail in China had its first and to date sole fatal accident on 23 July 2011, when Sheng was railways minister. The result of this was a full slowdown, with the cancellation of any remaining short-distance 350 km/h (217 mph) services, and a more extensive downgrading of more lines. Amongst two lines most heavily hit were the Baoji-Lanzhou HSR and the Xi’an-Chengdu HSR, both originally to be designed for speeds up to 350 km/h (217 mph), but now forced to accommodate for speeds no faster than 250 km/h (157 mph). The entire HSR project, momentarily, appeared to be axed under an extremely conservative and much scared and scarred Sheng.

It took a huge amount of persuasion and increasing ridership for the HSR project to be resurrected, persuasion which the founder of Tracking China, David Feng, was a visible part of, especially online. The tide soon turned against Sheng’s conservative policies, and apart from a few downgraded lines, the project was given a “second spring”. The national HSR network reached 10,000 km (6,250 mi) in 2013, and 20,000 km (12,500 mi), both under Sheng.

Sheng is credited with introducing e-booking, mobile booking, building and opening a vast amount of new HSR lines, and successfully transferring China Railways from a full government ministry to a government-funded state-owned enterprise. He has not been able to restore HSR services to 350 km/h (217 mph), however, increasing bottlenecks on new HSR lines, which have been a runaway success.

Background Facts: Lu Dongfu (陆东福)

Lu Dongfu was part of the Ministry of Railways leadership team confirmed in 2003. The team, headed by then-Minister Liu Zhijun, successfully built China’s first HSR, the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, and then expanded the network. Although Liu was ousted in February 2011, the network survived (albeit with a few lines downgraded), and continues to grow.

We can courageously predict that more efficient railway operations could potentially resume under Lu, although right now, it is too early to predict when the next speedbumps will happen. One thing that is confirmed is that the HSR network will continue to expand. Merely a positive addition under former leader Hu Jintao, Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken great interest in the national HSR network, even openly asking the question on when 350 km/h (217 mph) services would resume during the time Sheng was the person-in-charge of the national railway corporation.

David Feng

David Feng — founder and publisher, Tracking China, a Street Level China website.

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