More than 7,000 kilometers of railway tracks will be laid in western China by 2010 in a bid to spur development in the region.
The Ministry of Railways yesterday announced plans to increase the track network in the west from its current 27,600 kilometers to around 35,000 kilometers by the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010). Important projects include railways between Lanzhou and Chongqing, and Guiyang and Guangzhou.
The ministry said the preparation work for the Lanzhou-Chongqing railway is going smoothly and construction work is likely to start this year.
Connecting Gansu Province and Chongqing Municipality, the Lanzhou-Chongqing railway will become a trunk line, linking the nation's southwestern and northwestern regions.
"Upon completion the railway will boost the economy of Gansu and Sichuan provinces and Chongqing Municipality," said a ministry official, pointing out that the current route makes a detour via neighboring Shaanxi Province.
Another railway linking Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province, and Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, is also expected to start construction soon.
Designed to accommodate trains traveling at up to 250 kilometers per hour, the 820-kilometer tracks will cut the travel time from the current 21 hours to only 5 hours.
The project is designed to solve the lack of a fast route between southwest China and Guangdong's Pearl River Delta region, one of China's economic hubs, which has long restricted development in the West.
Of all western provinces, Yunnan will see the biggest increase in railways. Between 2006 and 2010, 50 billion yuan (US$6.5 billion) will be spent on 1,100 kilometers of new tracks, increasing the total length of track in the province by 50 percent over its 2005 length.
New lines will extend from Dali to Ruili in the south and Shangri-la in the north.
But despite the massive amount of work, the west's railways still lag behind railways in other parts of the country, in terms both of length and the number of high-speed routes.
The vast region accounting for more than 70 percent of China's total landmass has only one third of the nation's railway track.
While the national railway network grew by 28 percent between 2000 and 2005, track in the West grew by only 24.8 percent.
(China Daily March 6, 2007)