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Project plan

Abridged version


China and Europe’s industrial centres will be connected by a southern route with little snow and frost between 32 and 48 degrees northern latitude: Shanghai – Ürümqi - Volgograd - Vienna - Paris. This route has a length of 11,500 km in comparison to 19,350 km for the ship route Shanghai - Suez - Antwerp. It will be double-tracked at a later stage. Also in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) the gage will be 1,435 mm as in Western Europe and China. Through stations will be positioned at intervals of 1,000 km, as well as maintenance workshops at each end and in the middle of the route and maintenance bases every 300 km with helicopter and mobile crane for trouble-shooting purposes. The line is designed for a maximum speed of 160 km/h. The highest gradient of 0.5 % was chosen so that the brakes do not have to be used on downhill slopes. The route ends near Shanghai at a sea and air port with connections to Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. - The map shows the route of the PS, black on existing lines which will be used in the first construction stages, red later on our own line; the ship route is shown in blue, and the other railway lines are in brown. The projection was chosen so that the route of the PS is the least distorted.


The locomotives will be driven by high-speed ship diesel engines (if electricity from thermal power stations were used without cogeneration of power and heat, more energy would be required and the investment costs would be higher). The freight wagons will be 25 m long and can take with four or six axles a maximum weight of goods of 50 or 80 t or four 20-foot containers or lorry swap bodies (changeable bearers of freight). They can be heated and cooled with the exhaust fumes of the engines. The goods trains‘ maximum speed will be 140 km/h, the standard speed 120 km/h, resulting in a journey speed of 100 km/h.

The trains will travel at set intervals and speeds and are operated unmanned. They can be remote controlled by personnel at one of the three control centres in China, Kazakhstan and Western Europe. The line, the structure clearance and the track form will be electronically monitored. On the borders of the CIS the trains and containers will be checked automatically while driving through a scanning device. - The picture shows a standard train in the colours of China, the former Soviet Union, the European Union and of carriers, with 40 wagons, each for four 20-foot freight units. They are designed for low air drag, and the line is equipped with crash and noise barriers.

Construction stages and transport capacity

The transport capacity of the PS on the double-track line will total 200 mn t weight of goods or 16 mn 20-foot freight units per direction and year with trains travelling at a distance of 9 km from one another or at five-minute intervals. This is four times the present quantity of container ship transport between China and Europe without CIS, or more than half the current capacity of the Suez Canal. For this reason, the railway can be upgraded in stages until it reaches its full capacity. In the first stage transport on existing lines will be made faster and cheaper through special locomotives, wagons, reloading facilities, a superimposed telecontrol system and an organisation covering all involved and user countries. At first the PS company will have its own vehicles, reloading facilities and maintenance shops, but will use the existing lines of other companies. It will travel with block trains between only a few terminals. Because of this, even at the first stage at least two block trains per week and direction can travel between every one of the terminals in the east and the west, more than twice as often as the container ships. On the borders of the CIS the containers will be reloaded automatically onto trains with the same length and height of the platforms, but with the other gage, which will be located in the same position on a track beside to it.

The PS will begin to work on a bigger scale if it has conditions similar to transport by ship: one consignment note, no customs examinations and duties on transit, low taxes, security checks only on the border between the European Union and CIS and between China and CIS, etc.. The investment amounts to about 390 mn US-$ at a 2002 value, the transport capacity is 125,000 20-foot freight units per year and direction, and the journey time between Paris and Shanghai is nine days. The existing lines on this connection within the CIS should, when modernised, be working to capacity by 2015 and 2020 with other trains as well as the PS. By then the PS company’s own line, initially one-track, of about 5,000 km length will be laid there with a gage of 1,435 mm. The existing Chinese and Western European branch lines will be upgraded so that the line can be operated at a capacity of 1 mn 20-foot freight units per year and direction and with a journey time of six days between Paris and Shanghai. The cumulated investment for this stage amounts to about US-$ 7.6 bn at a 2002 value. In the long term, when the PS is working with large capacity, it will be the cheapest means of goods transportation between Europe and China. - The diagram shows the development of the cost price of container ships, PS, conventional railway and lorry convoys, with the same conditions of financing.


The enterprise PS will be run in the form of a multi-national joint-stock company. It will provide the investment and working capital. Carriers, railway and shipping companies, trading and producing companies, insurers, banks and private investment funds from the involved and user countries will hold shares according to a set ratio of distribution. The required ground will be leased for a fee from the countries for an initial period of 50 years, and a traffic duty paid in return for the provision of external security and in compensation for all the taxes incurred by the PS company. Moderate taxes as in the case of ship transport will be claimed from the capital creditors by the states in which they will be required to have their headquarters. To a great extent, international maritime and air traffic law will be applied to the PS company. Even with all the measures taken in technology and organisation, the PS can only be competitive, because the travelling distance by ship is much longer and the Suez canal has to be passed. Depending on the capacity, the freight costs with the PS at a 2002 value amount to 1 to 0.45 cent of US-$ per ton weight of goods and kilometre compared with 0.41 to 0.25 with the container ship, plus for the longer route and journey time, the higher insurance charge, the more expensive packaging etc..

Impulses for the economy

The journey time between Europe and China will be only slightly longer than by ship between Japan and China and not even half as long as between China and the USA. The PS will therefore strongly simplify the exchange of goods and make a faster introduction of modern technology into products and processes possible, as well as a larger increase in productivity. It would even be logistically possible to handle just-in-time production in China and Europe using components from the other region. For this reason the countries involved will experience powerful impulses in the further development of their economies. The quickly rising amount of transportation between China and Europe will aid the swift expansion of the PS.

Mike Knutton: New plan for Europe-China rail link. International Railway Journal, Rail Outlook 2003, p.12...13.
PSrail: PS. Paris-Shanghai Rail Express - an efficient transport system for goods between Europe and China. Project plan.