Northeast China's Liaoning Province began construction Wednesday on two railways near the border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to boost trade and tourism between the two countries.
One of the lines would link Shenyang, the provincial capital, and the Dandong City, which faced the DPRK's Sinuiju city across the Yalu River, said Wang Zhanzhu, director with the Shenyang City Railways Bureau.
The other would link Dandong and Dalian, Liaoning's most industrialized city.
The 207-km Shenyang-Dandong Railway was expected to cut the travel time from three and a half hours to one hour. The 296-km Dandong-Dalian Railway should cut the travel time to 90 minutes from a two-and-a-half-hour drive.
"The railways will benefit trade between China and the DPRK, as they can reduce the logistics costs," said Wang Tao, deputy general manager of the Dandong Import and Export Corporation.
The new railway links would play a growing important role in all aspects of the China-DPRK exchanges, said Lu Chao, a researcher with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.
About 70 percent of the border trade between the two countries was relying on the port of Dandong. Most Chinese tourists traveled to the DPRK via the Yalu River Bridge linking Dandong and Sinuiju, Lu said.
Yu Shuangcheng, manager of the Dandong Youth Travel Agency, said the company had received a lot of inquiries about travel to the DPRK and seen more visits to its website this month.
The National Tourism Administration announced on March 2 that the DPRK was an approved destination for Chinese tour groups and it is due to welcome its first batch of Chinese tourists on April 12.
"Travel to the DPRK will be much easier after the railways go into operation," Yu said.
The Shenyang-Dandong Railway, with a designed speed of 250 km per hour, would be completed in 2014. The Dandong-Dalian Railway, with a designed speed of 200 km per hour, would be completed in 2013. Their costs were estimated at 50 billion yuan (7.3 billion U.S.dollars), Wang said.
Chen Zhenggao, governor of Liaoning Province, said Wednesday construction of a high-speed railway linking Beijing and Shenyang, expected to cut the travel time between the two cities to two hours 30 minutes from four hours, would start in July.
"If the DPRK improves its railway services, it could take only half a day to travel from Beijing to Pyongyang by train after the Beijing-Shenyang Railway and the Shenyang-Dandong Railway go into operation," Lu said.
The distance between Pyongyang and Dandong was only about 200 km.
The construction of a new highway bridge linking Dandong and Sinuiju, would begin in the second half of 2010 with a total investment of 1.8 billion yuan, said Dandong Major Zhao Liansheng earlier this month.