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World's top trains roll on Chinese wheels

source:chinadaily.com.cn release date:2018/09/11 hits:108


A quality-control engineer inspects a high-speed train wheel at the plant of Ma Steel in Ma'anshan, East China's Anhui province. [Photo by Zhang Mingwei/For China Daily]

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A shipment of 160 Chinese-manufactured high-speed train wheels arrived in Germany on July 20, according to exporter Ma'anshan Iron & Steel Group, more widely known as Magang Group or Ma Steel.

Based in Ma'anshan city of East China's Anhui province, Ma Steel is the first Chinese company to export high-speed train wheels.

The deal for wheels was signed between Ma Steel and German railway company Deutsche Bahn or DB AG in the second half of 2017. The Chinese wheels will be used in the latter's ICE high-speed trains.

"The exported wheels, which will meet the repairing need of different models of ICE trains, permit speeds up to 320 kilometers per hour," said Liu Liu, deputy director of the quality supervision department of Ma Steel's train wheel and axle sector.

Production of the wheels is carried out by Ma'anshan Iron& Steel Co Ltd, a publicly traded company controlled by the Ma Steel group. Its shares are listed in both the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.

The wheels were first delivered to France at the end of May and later re-packaged at Valdunes, a France-based high-speed train wheel manufacturer and subsidiary of Ma Steel, according to Liu.

"They were manufactured in our Ma'anshan-based plant, whose packaging process is different from DB's requirement," said Liu.

Ma Steel acquired Valdunes in 2014 for 13 million euros ($14,69 million), after the French company entered a bankruptcy restructuring process. Ma Steel's acquisition saved 487 jobs.

Specializing in the design and manufacture of wheels, axle-and-wheels sets (two wheels and an axle), Valdunes is the sole supplier of these sets for TGV high-speed trains, holders of the world rail trial speed record of 574.8 km per hour.

Ma Steel became DB's first Chinese train wheel supplier in 2009 to provide 300 wheels for cargo trains.

Orders from DB has been steadily rising since then. A previous media report said by June of 2015, Ma Steel had shipped over 10,000 wheels for passenger and cargo trains of DB.

Heike Hanagarth, board member of DB, had told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a German newspaper, that a part of the company's demand for train wheels sets - 35,000 annually - would be met by its Chinese partners beginning 2017.

In November 2017, Ma Steel bagged a new order from DB to provide 4,200 wheel sets for its trains. Another 1,500 sets were then added to the deal. The recently exported high-speed train wheels were not included in the order for wheel sets, said Liu.

"Germany enjoys a large railway network and has many world-leading railway companies. As a leading company in the country, DB is very strict about product quality, so cooperation with the company is a good testimony to our strengths," said Liu.

As one of China's largest steel makers, Ma Steel is the country's first train wheel manufacturer and has exported train wheels to over 70 countries and regions, most of which are participating in the China-led Belt and Road Initiative.

Though wheel manufacturing consumes just 2 to 3 percent of Ma Steel's iron and steel production, it has been one of the most profitable components of the group for decades.

Train wheels are now a major part of the group's business. It supplies 90 percent of the wheels for the cars of China's traditional non-high-speed trains.

With the rapid development of China's high-speed railway systems, both at home and abroad, Ma Steel is aiming to seize a significant market share in the emerging and rapidly developing market.

Ma Steel signed an agreement in 2012 with the China Academy of Railway Sciences, the top railway research and development body, to import and localize manufacturing for heavy-load locomotive wheels and wheels for high-speed trains traveling faster than 250 km/h.

It has also completed a 600,000-kilometer test at the China Railway Test and Certification Center to supply wheels for China's high-speed rail network, the largest in the world.

Ma Steel's wheels have been applied in part in China's two models of high-speed trains since 2015, while most of the trains still rely on imported wheels.

The country launched the Fuxing, or Rejuvenation, high-speed trains, which are entirely designed and manufactured in China and use Ma Steel's wheels.

In a previous media report, Ma Steel executives said the group will build high-speed train wheels into a new engine of growth in the near future.