China's railway industry will open wider to global investment, including private investment from Chinese enterprises, top railway officials said.
The Ministry of Railways is drafting a series of investment policies to secure fair market conditions for healthy competition.
Rail minister Fu Zhihuan told the industry's annual working conference in Beijing at the weekend: "All the fields that the Chinese Government promised to open to foreign investors in its commitments to the World Trade Organization will allow the entry of international companies, using various forms of co-operation."
He said major parts of the railway construction and transportation market could open up to international investors but he did not give details.
The ministry is expected to recommend some profitable railway construction projects for global bidding early next year.
Fu said all the areas to be open to foreign investment would also be open to Chinese enterprises, as long as they are suitably qualified.
Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo has urged the ministry to speed up reform to better meet the growing demands of the market economy and guarantee a safe transport system, Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.
China's international transportation and construction business also saw apparent progress in the past few years.
Between 1998 and 2001, 86 million tons of international cargo were transported, mainly through the Asia-Europe railroad. The average annual increase during that period was 20 per cent.
China's railway design and construction companies have gained US$3 billion worth of international contracts since 1998. These businesses still have been establishing an ever stronger market presence in Asian and African markets.
Domestically, the railway industry managed to keep its momentum of the past few years, and the passenger and cargo businesses have both created new records this year.
The railway industry has transported 1.9 billion tons of cargo so far this year, a 4.1 per cent increase over last year. Passenger journeys rose 4.2 per cent to 483 million.
Fu told the weekend conference that China's rail sector must develop more high-speed trains through technical innovation to meet the intense competition from the fast-growing road and air transportation sectors.
He said the rail sector will begin producing two types of high-speed train next year. One model will be able to travel at 270 kilometres per hour while the top speed of the other will be 200 kilometres per hour. The new trains are expected to operate on the Qinhuangdao-Shenyang passenger express line in northern China.
Currently, China's passenger trains are 25 per cent faster overall than they were in 1997, with some express trains running at 140 or 160 kilometres per hour, compared to 120 kilometres per hour before.
The minister said China would develop a high-speed railway within 20 years. This would let trains run at speeds of more than 300 kilometres per hour, and all big cities and transport centres will be linked with high-speed trains.
In addition, China will continue research into railway construction for maglev trains and improve the industry's technical level by adopting more advanced technology.
(China Daily December 30, 2002)