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NJIT high speed rail expert to address DC conference next week

The controversial issues behind the building of high speed rail lines in China will be the topic of conversation next week when NJIT Associate Professor Rongfang (Rachel) Liu takes the stage at the annual 91st Transportation Research Board (TRB) conference. This event is the world's largest gathering in transportation, if not all of engineering, with upwards of 11,000 attendees from throughout the world.

Liu, an expert in high speed rail lines and other transportation issues, who teaches in the NJIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at NJIT's Newark College of Engineering, will detail her newest research: "Investment Returns for High Speed Rails in China: A Life Cycle Cost Analysis." Immediately following the conference via the proceedings, the manuscript can be accessed at It will eventually be published in Transportation Research Record, the journal of the Transportation Research Board.

The paper concludes that investments in high speed rails will receive adequate returns when the investment recovery period and life expectancy of the rails are linked. Also playing an important role will be fare structures which correspond to the demographic and social economic status of the travelers along the corridors.

Liu will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2012, Tuesday in the Salon II Room of the Washington Marriott Hotel. To interview Liu before, during or after the event, contact Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436.

Liu also will pinpoint, as reported in media, that most of China's high speed trains are not filled to capacity and some of them do not even operate at full speed. The situation can lead to other worries.

"The explosive expansion of China's high speed rail has not only attracted the world's attention, but it has also raised concerns about the economic feasibility of these rails. Some researchers have also expressed worries about the return on investment since the Chinese Ministry of Railways, the owner and operator of trains in China, becomes that nation's highest debtor," she said.

In contrast to the many pessimistic analyses, the life cycle cost analyses employed by Liu and her research team does present a positive big picture for its case study of the corridor in China. "Based on our assessment of ROI, the rail line in China can be a good positive investment return," she added.

This study may be easily generalized or extrapolated to illustrate other rail corridors or systems around the world, including the US, Liu said. She expects listeners at the upcoming conference to breathe a collective sigh of relief when they hear this news.

Nevertheless, no one should sit back and relax," she added. "A positive investment return does not indicate that the track for high speed rail development in China is totally clear."

Other issues and challenges she feels that still must be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Ridership growth
  • Capacity Expansion
  • Operation, Management, and safety issues

Liu has extensive experience in the area of intermodal transportation planning and engineering, environmental impact and major investment studies and travel demand forecasting and simulation modeling. She has managed and conducted long-range transportation plans for federal, state, and local government agencies and developed traffic engineering designs for various public and private sector clients. She has gained this broad-based experience through her various positions with consulting firms, research institutes, and government agencies as well as her extensive involvement with Transportation Research Board committees and modeling development task forces.

Liu has published six books and book chapters and more than 20 research papers in peer reviewed journals. She received her doctorate in civil engineering from the University of South Florida.


Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
New Jersey Institute of Technology

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