Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun said on January 8 that the state has started large-scale railway construction with the objective of developing a comprehensive network over the next five years, according to a People's Daily report on January 8.
At the National Railways Conference held on January 6, it was announced that the state will construct new railway lines stretching 17,000 kilometers; 7,000 kilometers specifically for passenger transportation, including 4,464 kilometers of track for fast trains capable of speeds of more than 300 kilometers per hour.
This is part of a plan to be carried out over the next five years, under China's 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-2010), to develop a comprehensive railway and rapid transit system network. The plan will involve a total investment of 1,250 billion yuan (about US$155 billion).
Liu said, "In the recent two years, work on 89 new projects have started, with a focus on the construction of passenger and coal transport. The new railway system will stretch 10,500 kilometers and rebuilt railways 9,400 kilometers, with investment exceeding 600 billion yuan (about US$74.4 billion).
Liu added that 87 new projects will be launched in 2006 at an estimated cost of 160 billion yuan (about US$19.8 billion). Over the next five years, construction will continue on special lines for passenger transport like those from Beijing to Shanghai, Beijing to Guangzhou, Beijing to Harbin, Shenyang to Dalian and Lanzhou to Lianyungang. The refurbished systems will cater to fast trains capable of speeds up to 300 km/h.
He said that work will also commence on inter-city rail transport systems from Beijing to Tianjin, Shanghai to Nanjing, Shanghai to Hangzhou, Nanjing to Hangzhou, Guangzhou to Shenzhen, Guangzhou to Zhuhai, providing trains with speeds of more than 200 km/h.
Liu said: "A comprehensive network will be developed over the next five years with Beijing, Shanghai, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Xi’an and Chengdu as hubs. Travel time from these hub cities to neighboring provincial capital cities will be a maximum of two hours, and a maximum of half an hour to nearby cities."
"The network will enhance transportation for 70 percent of cities with populations of more than half a million, and a total of 700 million people will directly benefit from the improvements." he said.
The freight transportation network will also be enhanced. Four existing north-south lines will be converted to an electric system, including lines from Beijing to Shanghai, Beijing to Guangzhou, Beijing to Kowloon, and Jiaozuo to Liuzhou. Total freight capacities will reach 400 million tons or more.
The line linking Tianjin, Qinhuangdao and Shenyang will also be electric to raise its freight transportation capacity to 120 million tons.
An east-west passage will include routes from Shanghai to Wuhan to Chengdu, from Lanzhou to Chongqing, Xi'an to Ankang and Kunming to Liupanshui, with freight capacities in and out of the southwestern region of the country of up to 300 million tons.
Routes in and out of the northwestern region will include the construction of double-track railways from Taiyuan to Zhongwei to Yinchuan, from Lanzhou to Chongqing and Lanzhou to Wuwei, and the electrization of the railway from Shizuishan to Lanzhou to enhance freight transportation capacities to over 200 million tons.
Work to improve coal transport routes will center around the country's ten largest coal producing bases. Lines from Datong to Qinhuangdao, and from Houma to Yueshan will be rebuilt to enlarge their transportation capabilities. The aim is to develop a coal transportation system with a capacity of more than 1.5 billion tons.
Liu said that these measures should solve current issues relating to national economic development being hampered by a lagging railway system.
Liu added that the Ministry of Railways will increase its stockpile of equipment and engine vehicles. The ratio of domestically manufactured locomotive vehicles to imports will reach 75 percent, that of high-powered electric engines to 70 percent, and that of high-powered internal combustion engines to more than 85 percent.
Engineers and experts are currently focused on learning and understanding foreign technology.
Liu said: "We are trying to maximize on the market potential in China and balance that with cost efficiency. Homegrown technology costs 20 to 40 percent less than imports."
(China.org.cn by Zhou Jing, January 12, 2006)