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At the end of 2005, railways in operation reached 75,400 km, including 20,100 km of electrified railways, the scale of China's electrified railway second only to that of Russia and Germany. According to the Mid- and Long-Term Railway Network Program approved by the State Council in 2004, China's railways in operation will reach 100,000 km by 2020. On a global basis, China's rail transport volume is one of the world's largest, carrying 25 percent of the world's total railway workload with only six percent of the world's operating railways. China also leads in terms of the growth rate of transport volume and in the efficient use of transport equipment.

Since 1997, train speed has been raised significantly five times, across some 17,000 km of track. The top speed of express trains increased from 120 km to 160 km per hour, and passenger trains can reach maximum speed of 200 km per hour on some sections of trunk railways.

The world's highest railway, the Qingzang Railway, running between Geermu in Qinghai and Lhasa in Tibet, linked up in October 2005 despite the difficulties of "long years of frozen earth, weak ecology, lack of oxygen due to high altitude," and will go into trial operation on July 1, 2006.  

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