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Direct cross-Strait links to start
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The civil aviation authorities on China's mainland yesterday stressed the benefits of the start of direct flights next week between the mainland and Taiwan: significantly shorter trips.

The two sides signed an agreement early last month to allow civilian planes and ships to directly cross the Taiwan Strait beginning on Monday.

Since 1949, air and shipping transport between the mainland and Taiwan have had to transfer through a third place, usually Hong Kong or Macau.

"The distance from Beijing to Taipei will be 1,100 kilometers less than it is on the current route (via Hong Kong), and the flying time will be shortened by one hour and 20 minutes," said Wang Liya, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

The distance between Shanghai and Taipei will be cut by 1,000 kilometers, which will help the airlines save as much as eight tons of fuel on a single flight, he said.

Under the agreement, the two sides will launch regular passenger charter flights, to replace current flights only on the weekends and major traditional Chinese holidays.

The number of return flights will increase to 108 every week, compared with 36 at present.

The mainland is also ready to launch direct postal service across the Taiwan Strait on Monday.

Wang Yuci, deputy head of the State Post Bureau, said Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Xi'an, Nanjing and Chengdu on the mainland, and Taipei, Kaohsiung, Keelung, Kinmen and Matsu of Taiwan were selected as regional distribution centers for the service.

Distribution centers will be adjusted or added based on future needs, he noted.

The services include express mail, parcel post and postal remittances. In the past, only registered mail was allowed to be sent across the Strait.

In addition to the air and postal links, up to 90 mainland ships will be able to receive government approval for direct trips across the Taiwan Strait, the Ministry of Transport said yesterday.

(Xinhua News Agency December 13, 2008)

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