The long-awaited Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway is expected to begin construction soon, Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun said on Sunday.
He made the announcement at a national conference on railway innovation, but did not specify a date.
With a cruising speed of 300 kph and a top speed of 350 kph, the 1,320 km-rail link will shorten travel time between the two cities from 13 hours to less than 5.
The project has been on the drawing board for a decade and was expected to begin last year and start operations in 2010, but was postponed until now. The minister didn't explain why.
The Beijing-Shanghai railway was initially estimated to cost 130 billion yuan ($17.2 billion), but insiders said the growing price of real estate and resettlement costs might increase the project to 170 billion yuan.
Liu said China plans to master the technological aspects of building and operating high-speed railways before 2010. It was one of the 10 goals set by the ministry for its 11th Five-Year period (2006-10).
Another aim is include developing 350 kph bullet trains and upgrading safety technologies, Liu said.
Once these aims are fulfilled, the ministry will be able to provide a fast, safe and comfortable travel experience on 7,000 km of new track that is due to be completed by 2010, running trains at speeds of up to 300 kph. Building 300 kph railways for Beijing-Tianjin, Wuhan-Guangzhou, and Zhengzhou-Xi'an are at the planning stage.
China owns the intellectual property rights to laying concrete-bed rail tracks, Liu said. On ordinary tracks 300 kph trains can kick up debris that is a danger to people.
Liu said though China's ability to build railway bridges and tunnels in mountainous areas is world class, technologies relating to 300 kph railways need improvement. More effort is needed, he said.
In the meantime the ministry would import advanced technologies from abroad, Liu said. "We aim at the world's top-notch technologies."
In April the ministry announced it had mastered the technologies to raise train speeds to 200 kph on about 12,000 km of existing rail lines.
(China Daily September 10, 2007)