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Railway construction open to foreign investment
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Foreign investment shall be introduced in the construction of railways, which experienced the worst disorder in a snow havoc and left millions of passengers stranded midway in their journey home earlier this year, China's railway minister said Wednesday.

"The snow disaster exposed a laggard railway situation far behind the country's economic and social development," Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun said while joining a group discussion by deputies to China's top legislature from east China's Jiangxi Province.

The National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, opened its annual full session on Wednesday morning.

A total of 300 billion yuan (US$42 billion) will be invested in China's railway construction this year, and foreign investment will be introduced to the sector "at a proper time", Liu said, declining to give a detailed timeline.

Many railway projects, including parallels of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, may open for foreign investment, he said.

With an estimated investment of 160 billion yuan (US$21 billion), the 1,318-km Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway would be the largest as well as the most expensive engineering project in the country upon its completion.

Liu also said separate power generation units will be installed in more than 2,000 railway stations along trunk lines in 2008.

He reminded local railway departments to keep the balance between reserves of electrified engines and gas-fueled engines.

Millions of train passengers were trapped along China's artery railway linking Beijing and south China's booming city Guangzhou in January when the worst snow disaster in 50 years cut power supply to electricity-powered train engines.

"We will try to improve the transport capability of the Beijing-Guangzhou railway and other major lines by a great extent in three to five year," Liu said.

China plans to build a total of 7,820 km of rails this year.

(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2008)

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