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"Crucial Year" for Highways in West: Communications Minister

How many kilometers of new highways are to be built as part of the great strategy pioneering China's west development strategy? To this, an interview as given below was specially sought with Communications Minister Huang Zhendong during the ongoing NPC plenary and CPPCC meetings in Beijing:

Reporter: How about highway construction in western China?

Huang: China has 12 provinces and autonomous regions in its west with a territory of 6.882 million square kilometers or 71.7 percent of the country's total. Comparing 52 percent of expressways built in China's east as reported by the end of 2001, roads built in this part of the country are mostly at a poor low level: Asphalt road merely makes an insignificant part. Most are roads raising big clouds of dust during fine days and would become all muddy in a rainy weather. Medium- or second-class roads make a mere 27 percent, at a level of 12.5 percentage points less than the national average and 30.7 percentage points less than those in China's east. This is particularly so with those at a county level, not to say those down below of poor accessibility.

Reporter: What highways are going to be built in the country's west this year?

Huang: We are just in a year crucial for highway construction in the west. We'll have our construction focusing on a state trunk line, 8 inter-province lines and 25,000 km of highways at county level, greater road coverage and greater accessibility of highways to every rural nook. The target is set at a total length of around 40,000km, including 2,500km expressways.

Reporter: How about inter-county asphalt road construction?

Huang: Western China inter-county asphalt road construction will focus on access to prefecture cities and county seats. By the end of the year, with Tibet excepted, an asphalt or cement road network is to be built at least from provincial capitals to every prefecture city or county seat and this as a regional project has been launched since last year. According to plan, 251 project items are to be undertaken. Along with over 25,000km of highways over 3,000km second-class highways or about 11.8 percent regionally planned will be built. Third-class highways total 18,000 km, or 72.6 percent regional. Fourth-class highways reach 4,000km to take up 15.6 percent. These will involve a total of over 30 billion yuan of cost. It has been decided that 15 billion yuan of central allocations including 10 billion yuan of treasury bonds will be made on top of 5 billion yuan from the Ministry of Communications.

( People’s Daily March 12, 2002)

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