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Restructuring the Chinese Freight Railway: Two Scenarios

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Abstract: Twenty years of debate regarding the restructuring of the Chinese freight railway have failed to yield a consensus. Early policy statements favoring the creation of above-the-rail competition over a monopoly infrastructure – the “European” model of rail restructuring – have broadened into a lively policy and scholarly debate that includes as an alternative the division of the system into competing vertically integrated railways – the “Americas” model of restructuring. To date, however, there have been no tangible reform steps beyond organizational restructuring, the construction of new coal railroads, some with private-sector participation, and the introduction of scheduled service, especially for containers, between China and Europe. In this paper we argue in favor of the Americas model as a basis for restructuring and offer two alternative scenarios for the creation of multiple vertically integrated freight railways. Both plans enable competition between independent firms and routes for import export traffic, one a southern, One Belt One Road path, the other a northern path via the Trans-Siberian Railway.

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