Chinese cities, each with a population of more than 500,000, will be connected by a trunk road network extending 35,000 kilometers by year end, Vice Minister of Communications Weng Mengyong said on Tuesday.
Among its 661 cities, China has 78 urban centers with an above-500,000 population, according to figures available. This means more than 39 million people would have access to the trunk roads.
The 12 main roads link Beijing with the provincial capitals, municipalities directly under the central government, special economic zones, transport hubs and major ports, Weng said.
"They are not only of political and economic significance but relate to national security," he said.
The network, known as the "five north-south and seven east-west main roads", covers an area from the Russian and Mongolian borders in the north down to the skirts of Southeast Asia and links China's western hinterland to its eastern coast.
Weng said construction of the roads started in 1990 and was completed this year. The total investment exceeded 900 billion yuan (US$121.6 billion) and came from a variety of sources, including vehicle purchase tax, state treasury bonds and bank loans.
"The roads will contribute to promoting local economic development, raising people's life quality, enhancing local governments ability to deal with emergencies and improve public services," Weng said.
With a view to easing traffic, the ministry proposed the road building plan in the 1980s after the nation opened to the outside world. The plan was approved by the State Council in 1992.
At present, workers were still building the most difficult part of the network in the mountainous southwestern Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, Weng said.
Three years ago, the central government approved an expanded national trunk road system, or the "7918 Network", a plan to build seven capital radials, nine north-south major highways and 18 east-west corridors totaling some 85,000 km. The plan was expected to be completed in 2020.
(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2007)