Construction could start this year on three railways in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, sources with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said yesterday.
The NDRC plans to invest 4.25 billion yuan (US$591 million) in the three railways: the Lanxin, Nanjiang and Kuitun railways.
It has also been reported that work on the Jingyihuo Railway, the first electric railway in Xinjiang, has accelerated and should be complete by the end of this year, according to Chinanews.com.
Experts say developing Xinjiang's rail capacity will make it easier to exploit its massive stores of energy resources.
With estimated reserves of 20.8 billion tons of oil and 10.8 trillion cu m of gas, Xinjiang is seen as a strategic complement to Heilongjiang, China's top natural gas and oil producer this year.
The latest data from four major northwestern oil and gas bases revealed that Xinjiang had produced 26.4 million tons of crude oil and 21.2 billion cu m of gas last year, or 43.3 million tons of oil equivalent.
The latter figure represented a rise of 13.6 percent from 2006.
The plan to build more railroads in Xinjiang will facilitate the growing trade between western China and central Asia and open up the southern passage of the new Euroasia continental bridge.
Currently the only railway linking Xinjiang with central Asia is a 460-km line between Urumqi and Alataw Pass, where it connects to Kazakhstan railways.
It has been reported that the construction of two railways linking Xinjiang with the central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is under way.
The 6.2-billion yuan railway linking Korgas on the China-Kazakhstan border with China's inland railways, is expected to be completed within this year.
It will extend westward to join the Sary-Ozek railway of Kazakhstan to become the second cross-border rail link between the two countries.
Meanwhile, preparatory work has begun on the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway, which starts from Kashi in Xinjiang and extends through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan.
(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2008)