Australian suppliers get onboard with China rail
China’s rail construction boom means it will remain the world’s biggest rail market for at least another decade. Its Ministry for Railways is looking for foreign expertise in all components. ICN and Austrade are supporting Australian firms with regular trade missions to China. The first, to Hong Kong in March 2011, opened many doors and
secured immediate sales.
 
It was only a matter of time before ICN’s long engagement with the international rail market would bring it to the largest national market – China.
 
ICN have been bringing Australian and New Zealand suppliers and major projects together for 28 years. Their latest success was in connecting New Zealand’s A&G Price with NSW’s Waratah train project managed by Downer Rail.
 
ICN’s rail consultants contacted ICN’s relationship manager in New Zealand, Bob Murdoch, with the brief to find a company that could supply Downer Rail with high-quality cast steel brake components. Bob knew that A&G Price had the necessary skills.
 
Before long, A&G Price had won a multi-million dollar contract and was exporting direct to the rail assembly plant in China. ‘We’re making highly critical components – essentially, what attaches the carriage to the underside of the train’ says Don Blue from A&G Price.
 
“The trains are high tech so our role is crucial. Without ICN giving us the ‘leg in’, we wouldn’t have got the job. I make sure we stay close to ICN and keep them in the loop.”
 
Why were parts for NSW trains being assembled in China? Because that’s where most of the world’s trains are now being built, both for China’s immense domestic market and for export. The rail equipment industry in China has been growing at 16% per annum, faster even than China’s 9% annual GDP growth and will reach $32 billion in 2015.
 
ICN is working closely with the Australian Government Rail Supplier Advocate, Austrade and the Australasian Railway Association to get more of that action.
 
Their first trade mission to China led delegates from 12 Australian companies to Hong Kong in March 2011. Its focus was to develop relationships with executives from the HK Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and with other key government and private industry representatives in the Chinese market.
 
“This was an ideal opportunity to get to know the business opportunities in China, to understand their procurement processes and to get first hand advice on how best to approach the Chinese rail market,” notes ICN’s National Sector Manager - Rail, Tony Carney. “The discussions were outstanding.”
 
Importantly, attending companies were able to register onto MTR’s internal supplier system. They will now be notified directly when tenders are released, and will also receive Request for Tenders – a major breakthrough in gaining access to opportunities.
 
There was also the chance to showcase Australian products and capabilities, to make sure that Australian expertise was kept in mind for future contracts. Several suppliers were invited to send samples of their products for trial – another foot in the door of this huge market. Two others have appointed Hong Kong agents to further their relationships in China.
 
Some participants found that this was a market that could move surprisingly quickly and there were immediate requests for quotes and sales orders soon after their return to base in Australia.
 
Securing the greatest impact from the 2011 mission was QR National, the newly listed Australian freight haulage operator. QR National partnered two major Chinese companies in winning an infrastructure contract, with QR National’s share valued at around $150 million.
 
A second mission is scheduled for March 2012. The 2012 mission will visit all the major centres of the Chinese rail industry – Beijing, Changchun, Qingdao, Shanghai, Changsha and Hong Kong.
 
The mission will provide an even better chance for participants to see the state of innovation and technology being applied in China’s rail network and to develop the relationships and expertise needed to be part of its growth.
 
Along with meeting with many of China’s rail industry and government leaders, the delegation will spend time with two Australian companies which have long been supporters of ICN’s services and which are now making their mark in China.
 
These companies are Bradken, who builds freight rail wagons and components at their $160m Xuzhou facility, and Futuris, who supplies rail (and bus) interior fittings from its Changzhou facility.
 
ICN will continue to build its international networks in the rail sector. The ICN Rail Directory (www.rail.icn.org.au), funded by the Australian Government, is a comprehensive capability matching service for the industry, listing over 1,500 suppliers and project managers. 
 
The Directory is used domestically and internationally and is a connection point for buyers and suppliers looking to build the partnerships needed in an increasingly competitive industry.