CHANGCHUN — Purchase a ticket online and board any high-speed train in China, chances are good that you're riding in a train produced at a suburban factory in the northeastern city of Changchun.
CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd., known as the cradle of China's metro transit and electric multiple units, produces about 40 percent of the country's high-speed trains. And a giant workshop at the corner of CRRC Changchun factory plays a crucial role in the safe operation of these bullet trains.
This workshop, which can accommodate 77 EMU carriages at the same time, is the assembly line of high-speed trains.
Different kinds of train carriages are arranged in an orderly manner, and workers are busy toiling in the carriages or under the trains. Most of these workers are wiring operators.
"Don't underestimate this job," said Yao Zhihui, a 34-year-old junior operator at CRRC Changchun.
A high-speed train contains nearly 20,000 pieces of wires and about 100,000 junction points, Yao explained, adding that they are like the "nerves" of the train, and any error or deviation may affect its normal operation.
Yao joined CRRC Changchun in 2011, becoming one of the country's first generation of high-speed railway workers. She started as a wiring worker, a grassroots position that entails connecting 200 to 300 wires per day.
A number tag corresponding to the worker's identity will be attached to the wire following the completion of the operation; this is the company's signature method for ensuring meticulousness.
Workers like Yao value their work as the company provides a clear route for professional advancement. Through training, practical operation and assessment, they can move up the ladder from wiring worker to technician, operator, expert and even a scientist at the company. Some have even received provincial and national honors.
Han Dongning, 49, is a senior expert in the company. During his three decades of experience here, he has witnessed the industry's transformation from slow trains to domestically-manufactured high-speed trains.
In 1997, China implemented its first significant railway speed increase. Since then, the country's high-speed rail technology has continued to achieve breakthroughs, from 250 km per hour to 350 km per hour, and then to 400 km per hour. Made-in-China high-speed trains can not only operate in freezing weather and desert regions, but they also have magnetic levitation and driverless technology.
With the increasing degree of automation of high-speed rail, will its manufacturing process require less labor from workers like Han?
"It's quite the opposite," Han said.
He believes that the faster and more intelligent high-speed trains are, the more complex their software and hardware systems will become, requiring higher technical competence for daily inspection and maintenance by workers.
"For us, improving our skills to ensure safe operation of the trains is an endless learning curve," Han said.