A train runs along Chongqing Rail Transit (CRT) Line 2 in Chongqing, southwest China, Feb. 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Tang Yi)
CHONGQING, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- While tourists often awe at Liziba Station's Line 2 for the magic view of its trains passing through a building in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, it's rarely known that the line is China's first monorail route, western China's first rail transit line, and also the starting point of the city's prosperous rail industry.
In the last century, considering construction costs and efficient space utilization, Chongqing, a mountainous city with rugged terrain, dense buildings and narrow streets, decided to import the straddle-type monorail from Japan as its first rail transit system.
"At that time, it was not easy for us to design and build the monorail because it was such a new thing. We took Japan's monorail for reference, but when Chongqing put its Line 2 in operation in 2004, we made all 19 trains, and only two were imported," recalled Xiao Jingfei, executive deputy general manager of Chongqing CRRC railway vehicles Co., Ltd.
Starting as an apprentice in the industry, Chongqing made remarkable progress in monorail construction in the following years.
The number of carriages for each train has increased from four to eight, and most of the monorail system's components are now self-developed. Currently, Chongqing has set a series of national standards for straddle-type monorails.
Chongqing has 12 lines in its urban mass transit, and the total length of the operational lines has reached 478 km, making the city a world-class rail transit metropolis.
Chongqing has launched China's first "As subway model" adapted to the mountainous terrain, China's first rail route that allows the train to run on both Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) railways, and an inter-connected CBTC (Communication-Based Train Control) system that can integrate different lines' signals.
"It is Chongqing's innovative and adventurous spirit that breeds an ideal development environment for us and stimulates us to research and develop new vehicle products," said Xiao, adding that their company saw its annual output increase to 2.1 billion yuan (about 312 million U.S. dollars) in 2022 from merely 10 million yuan when the company was established in 2007.
UniTTEC, a company devoted to rail-transit signal systems, participated in a program aiming to form better connectivity of the CBTC system by integrating different lines' signals in Chongqing.
"Chongqing pioneered breaking the technical barriers between different rail transit signal suppliers, indicating that the city's rail transit system is steering into a more intelligent future. This is also a major reason for us to settle in Chongqing last April," said Gu Yixin, general manager of UniTTEC Chongqing.
"Due to Chongqing's special terrain, there lies huge space for us to develop multiple rail transit models and eco-friendly, intelligent, and low-carbon power supply systems for the sector," said Pan Gaofeng, general manager of Chongqing CRRC Times Electric Technology Co., Ltd., which joined the fray in March 2021 and garnered a total revenue of 320 million yuan that year alone.
Chongqing's industrial equipment chain in the rail transit sector has expanded to over 80 companies ranging from design to construction and yielded an annual output of nearly 10 billion yuan in 2022, according to Chongqing City Transportation Development & Investment Group Co., Ltd.
More opportunities still await Chongqing's rail transit sector thanks to the city's innovation-oriented development and pioneering spirit, according to He Xihe, chief expert of Chongqing Rail Transit Industrial Investment Co., Ltd.
"Just take Chongqing's monorail as an example, it can have broad application prospects whether in foreign countries or third-tier or fourth-tier cities in China," He added.
In 2025, the total length of the Chongqing rail transit system in operation and under construction is expected to exceed 1,000 km. The daily average passenger traffic of its rail transit in major urban districts will reach over 6 million travelers, accounting for more than half of the city's public transportation travel. ■