China Saturday started building a new transport artery -- Chongqing-Huaihua Railway in its landlocked hinterland, in a bid to speed up the development of the western areas.
Premier Zhu Rongji sent a message to congratulate on the commencement of the project, which will link Huaihua City in central China's Hunan Province with southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.
The railroad, one of the top 10 projects listed by the central government for western development, runs through Chongqing, Guizhou and Hunan, and will be electrified all at once.
The new rail line, 625 kilometers long, is estimated to cost 19. 87 billion yuan (about US$2.4 billion). Construction is expected to take five and a half years.
The railway, which will be built through some poverty-stricken areas, will shorten the distance between southwest China and central and eastern China.
Currently, passengers or freight in southwest China's Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality have to wind their way northward or southward in order to reach the southeast of China, traveling an extra distance of between 270 and 550 kilometers, depending on the destination.
The resources-rich hinterland suffers from backward transport infrastructures. The new rail artery is expected to facilitate local economy and contribute to the ambitious program to develop the western areas.