Chinese juggernaut CRRC is the world’s largest train manufacturer with global ambitions that have spooked Europe. But an EU veto of the Siemens-Alstom merger leaves it without the formidable challenger France and Germany had hoped for.
The China Railroad Rolling Stock Corporation manufactures wagons and locomotives for the Chinese railway network. It was formed following a 2014 merger between two state-owned firms and now employs more than 180,000 people.
The merger was intended to create a juggernaut that would facilitate the export of Chinese railroad technologies to the international market and boost its competitiveness.
CRRC’s growth has been powered by the huge expansion in China’s rail network in recent years, from a high-speed network that is now the biggest in the world to dozens of new metro lines in China’s fast-growing cities.
In just a few years CRRC has opened factories across the globe and its locomotives and wagons can be found from Boston to Philadelphia, Cambodia to Colombia. The iconic London Underground and Germany’s Deutsche Bahn are also customers.
The corporation brought in about 26 billion euros ($30 billion) in revenue in 2017. Compare this to the West’s “Big Three” Bombardier Transportation, Siemens Mobility and Alstom who each reported revenue of around 8 billion euros for the same year.
Ultra Light Subway
At the last edition of InnoTrans, a trade fair for transport technology in Berlin, CRRC’s booth showcased designs for the future: a TGV-like intercity freight train capable of travelling at 250 km/h (155 mph) as well as a prototype ultra-light subway train made of carbon fibre.
Foothold in Europe
CRRC’s increased presence has raised concerns in Europe, where some governments are already wary of Beijing’s increased footprint as a result of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative.
Last year a CRRC subsidiary announced plans to bid for Czech manufacturer Skoda which would give the corporation an even firmer foothold in the continent. CRRC has already won contracts in Serbia, Macedonia or the Czech Republic. The seriousness of the “Chinese threat”, however, is debated.
Bombardier, Alstom’s Canadian rival and Siemens have welcomed competition from CRRC.