Since World War II, the governments of all countries in the world except the U.S.A. have introduced a state-owned management system on their railways. Finally, highway and air transport began growing rapidly between 1970 and 1994. The total volume of goods across Europe grew by 70%, but the freight volume carried by the railways shrank by 22% at the same time. The European Union has reached the conclusion that the management system adopted by the state on its railways has led to the decline of the railways.
Since the 1980s, many nations, including the U.K., have relaxed their control over the railways by adopting privatization. First they have separated railway transport-----a competitive part----from the monopolized railway industry, then they have separated commercial transport from public transport.
However, no country's experience fully appropriate to the Chinese pattern. An English professor of transport economics told his Chinese students that China's problem was unique and there was no existing experience to copy.
Thomson, a world-famous specialist in railway reform, said that the reform of China's railways was a major challenge for the world's railway industry.
Three scholars agreed to talk about the difficulties China's railways will meet in the reform.
How to define the quality of the railway-network company? The railway-network company will enjoy the great power of the distribution of busy lines, so how should this power be controlled?
Today, railway networks in China remain at the stage of expansion and renewal. It is a new requirement for China's railways to build rapid and heavy-duty trains. After the railway networks separate from the transport sector, what policies will China introduce to guarantee that the railway-network company can build new railways and repair the old ones?
How to adjust the more reasonable railway charge? Prices should be different for different times, trains, lines and loading capacity. How to set a more rational price standard is a worldwide headache.
With the reform of China's railways, how can the various companies work well with each other?
It is not easy to tackle these problems.
The Ministry of Railways has scheduled the reform to last a decade. The reform has three steps: the first will separate passenger transport from freight transport. The next step is to merge railway networks with freight transport but set passenger transport free, which is a transitional pattern similar to those operated in the US and Japan. The final step is to completely separate railway networks from the transport sector. With complete peace of mind, China's railways will sum up their former experience and go ahead steadily with the reform in the long term.
In effect, every country in the world carrying out a radical reform of its railways will hold several rounds of discussion before acting drastically. Japan established a special agency in 1983 to discuss its railway reform, and four years later the reform plan was issued. In 1989, Germany reestablished its Federal Railway Committee, and the formal plan was issued four years and ten months later.
And there is some other background information that is of interest. The reform of Japan's national railways has met with strong resistance from the railway trade union and senior workers. And the railway reform in Britain progressed with difficulty during Premier Major's term of office and was completed only after he left office. So the railway reform is very difficult to carry out.
Mr. Fu Zhihuan, Minister of Railways, says that the reform of China's railways is an endless and painstaking course. Since China's railways have chosen this road discreetly, they should go straight ahead resolutely.