Chinese Officials Discuss Partnership With HS2 Railway Executives In High-Level Meeting
Chinese officials had reportedly met with executives of the UK's controversial HS2 high-speed railway project as part of the country's latest efforts to become one of its main contractors. The HS2 railway is Europe's largest high-speed rail project, which has been criticized by some over its massive cost. Critics have also questioned whether the cost of the project would be worth its yet-unknown economic benefits.
According to local reports, members of the Chinese government along with the heads of state-owned railway companies apparently met with HS2 executives earlier this month. The meeting has been taken by some as a clear sign of China's interest in the US$72.9 billion project, which is largely funded by British taxpayers. China is currently one of the biggest bidders for the project's various construction contracts.
The country's National Development and Reform Commission revealed in a brief statement that the meeting was attended by heads of the China Railway Corporation and the CRRC. Meanwhile, UK had sent over the HS2's chief executive Mark Thurston to discuss possible deals with the country.
The exact details of the discussions were unfortunately not disclosed, but reports have speculated that China may have offered the British government a wholesale package deal to build the HS2's second high-speed railway line. The HS2 currently has two major railway lines. The first one runs between London and West Midlands, while the second one between Leeds and Manchester.
The UK government had previously touted the HS2 project as a means to bolster employment in the country and to further connect its major cities. However, public criticism still continues over its actual cost and value for money.
Some politicians have even questioned whether the project could be completed with the allocated budget and whether it would be all worth it once it is done.
In 2017, China and the UK had signed an agreement to cooperate in the building of the second phase of the HS2 project. This included cooperation in the railway's development planning, regulation, construction, equipment supply, design, and technical services. China's interest in the European railway also aligns with its own ambitions under the Belt and Road Initiative. China has continually expressed its desire to push for more railway construction to further boosts its overseas revenue.
China currently exports thousands of different products to different European countries via the China-Europe Railway Express. This even includes locally farmed tomatoes that are sent directly to Italy. Ministry of Transport figures estimates that over 13,000 cargo trains were sent to Europe in the last month alone.
China's has so far invested billions of dollars under the Belt and Road initiative through its different state-owned businesses. In the past five years, over 3,116 investment projects have been carried out in countries covered by the infrastructure initiative.