China’s unmanned bullet train ‘adds to the thunder’ of the Winter Olympics
The Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games have begun. China took several measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 during the event. One of them is an autonomous high-speed transport system that passes very close to an ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Fuxing bullet train
The Fuxing Bullet Train, a customized train capable of reaching a top speed of 350 km/h, was inaugurated early last month. This travel route, the Beijing-Zhangjiakou High-Speed Railway, will facilitate passenger services for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. It comes with several Olympics-specific features.
It would be the first high-speed train to have a 5G live streaming studio in the world. The rail also has air purifying devices and lockers for ski gear, as well as wheelchair accessible spaces.
The vehicle supports BeiDou satellite navigation system and can accommodate more than 560 people. One of the carts includes a media workspace.
Chinese state media Xinhua noted that Zhu Yan, deputy director of CRRC Changchun’s railway vehicle engineering research center, said: “More than 2,700 automatic inspection sensors in the train can collect data in time. actual and provide operation and maintenance suggestions after calculation.”
He added that the vehicle will only take 50 minutes to transport passengers from downtown Beijing to the Olympic venues in Zhangjiakou. A regular express train takes three hours to cover this route.
China had been working on this transportation plan for a long time. In 2015, it was reported that Beijing had approved a $9.22 billion budget to build this train line. Construction of the railway began three years later in 2018, and the Beijing-Zhangjiakou link was completed in about a year.
This is the first way to achieve autonomous driving at such high speeds. The driverless system is expected to reduce energy consumption by 7% in January.
Station under the Great Wall
The high-speed, self-driving nature of this transportation system isn’t the only impressive thing about the Fuxing. In the middle of its journey from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, the high-speed train passes through Badaling Great Wall Station.
This station is a short walk from the entrance to the most popular section of the centuries-old Great Wall of China. Additionally, since the railway line was built deep underground to avoid causing structural damage to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has become the deepest high-speed train station in the world.
Engineers involved in the project used an electronic detonator to precisely time the explosives down to thousandths of a fraction of a second. This allowed the workers to maintain a vibration speed of less than 0.2 centimeters per second. In other words, each explosion has been calculated so that its impact is no greater than that of a single step in the historical monument.
The first custom-designed train for the Beijing Winter Olympics started Thursday on the high-speed railway linking Beijing and Zhangjiakou, the co-host cities of the upcoming 2022 Winter Games. #GLOBALLink pic.twitter.com/GYdzzdpwvG
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) January 6, 2022
The station, which is located 102 meters underground and covers an area of more than 36,000 square meters, also includes a 12 kilometer long tunnel system. The three-story structure is not only the deepest, but also the largest high-speed operational underground station in human history. It is also home to the second longest escalator in China, which is 88 meters long and 42 meters high.
Other measures to contain the Covid
In addition to this ultra-sophisticated transport system, other measures are also in place for the Olympic Games. A month before the start of the Winter Olympics, Beijing sealed its “bubble” of the games.
About 3,000 athletes and several journalists from around the world are expected in China for the Games. Arrangements have been made to let them stay in the bubble from the time they land until they leave the country.
People entering the bubble must be fully vaccinated or subject to a 21-day quarantine upon arrival. Inside, it was reported, everyone would be tested daily and required to wear face masks at all times.
Thousands of Games-related staff, cleaners, volunteers, cooks and coach drivers will be shielded for weeks within the specially created ‘closed loop’ which will allow no direct physical access to the outside world. This closed-loop system includes dedicated transport specifically for travel between venues, with even special high-speed rail systems running alongside those open to the public.
Fans are not part of the closed loop and organizers have been instructed to ensure they do not mingle with athletes and other people inside the bubble.
This approach contrasts with the COVID-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics held between July 23 and August 8 last year. Japan had allowed certain in and out movements for staff and volunteers associated with the conduct of the Games.
Despite special arrangements, the Beijing Olympics are facing challenges for a completely different reason. Countries, especially Western countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, have announced a diplomatic boycott. Others that have followed suit include India, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Kosovo and Lithuania. They have all sent athletes, but no minister or official is present.
The United States revealed that this partial boycott was due to “human rights violations and atrocities committed by China in Xinjiang”.
British MP Iain Duncan Smith said: “The Chinese government is committing human rights abuses on an industrial scale in the Uyghur region, in Tibet, and sending military incursions almost daily into Taiwanese airspace.
“We cannot lend any legitimacy to the Chinese despotic regime,” he added.
India, on the other hand, declared the boycott because one of the torchbearers was a Chinese army officer involved in the Galwan clash in June 2020, in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives.
Japan said it would not send ministers to the Games. However, he sends Olympic officials.
Meanwhile, Austria, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovenia and Sweden have said they will not send government officials due to COVID.
France is however against a boycott. President Macron said: “I don’t think you should politicize these topics, especially if it’s about taking insignificant and symbolic measures.”