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China's Highroad to Highway Success
It took the Ministry of Communications and the National Bureau of Statistics over two years and 500 million yuan(US$60.5 million)in direct expenditure to finish the second national highway survey. The survey results, released just days ago, represent a vivid account of China's remarkable achievements in highway development.

By the end of 2000, China had developed a highway transportation network of 1.68 million kilometers, 804,000 kilometers longer than reported in the first national highway survey in 1979. At the end of 2001, the figure had climbed to some 1.7 million kilometers.

Expressway construction also displayed a rapid increase in cumulative length. At the end of 2000, China possessed around 16,000 kilometers of expressway nationwide. By the end of 2001, the country replaced Canada as the world's number 2 in terms of aggregate expressway length with over 19,000 kilometers.

The second national highway survey investigated all national highways (including major national transport arteries), provincial level highways, county level highways, countryside level highways, special highways, and their affiliated constructions at the end of 2000 (Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan were not included). In order to get a deeper understanding of rural highway development and coverage, the survey went as far as investigating village level highways as well.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Communications and the National Bureau of Statistics, China has witnessed observable advancement in highway network infrastructure and technological aptitude. By the end of 2000, highways with a state level rating soared 160 percent to 1.32 million kilometers, 810,000 kilometers longer than in 1979, accounting for 78.3 percent of all highways nationwide. The ratio of high-quality highways with a state Grade II or better rating rose by 11.8 percent from 1979, totaling 219,000 kilometers. At the end of 2001, China had built 1.336 million kilometers of highway with a state level rating, 13.4 percent of which are high-quality highways with a Grade II or higher rating totaling 227,000 kilometers.

At the end of 2000, highways with a sealed road surface had grown by 136 percent to 1.526 million kilometers, 879,000 kilometers longer than reported in the 1979 survey. And the ratio of sealed roads surged from 73.8 percent in 1979 to 90.8 percent in 2000. Highways without sealed road surfaces decreased by 75,000 kilometers in the same period. In the two decades since the first national highway survey, high-quality and average-quality highways increased by 332 percent, from 151,000 kilometers to 653,000 kilometers. The ratio of high-quality and average-quality highways was up 21.7 percent from 1979. At the end of 2001, the measure of highways with a sealed road surface, now 1.546 million kilometers, accounted for 91 percent of the highways nationwide. The 672,000 kilometers of high-quality and average-quality highways now account for 39.6 percent of the total highway transportation network.

County level highways extended by a massive amount. At the end of 2000, county level highways totaled 1.263 million kilometers, 675,000 kilometers longer than two decades ago. This figure was up to 1.277 million kilometers by the end of 2001.

Two decades after the first national highway survey in 1979, highway development in rural areas has marched on to extend total length and technological capability. In recent years especially, increasing efforts have been made to accelerate and upgrade highways in remote areas. As a result, these highways have played an important role in developing those old revolutionary base areas, minority inhabited areas, country border areas and poverty-stricken areas.

The regional density and overall coverage of highways has also been further optimized. In the late 1950s, 47 counties nationwide still had no access to highways. In the late 1970s, only Medog County in Tibet and Derong County in Sichuan still had no highways. By the eighth Five-Year Plan period (1991-1995), all counties nationwide had been connected with the nationwide highway transportation network. At the end of 2000, 99.2 percent of townships and 90.8 percent of administrative villages are interlinked with highways. At the end of 2001, these ratios were a further 0.1 and 1 percentage point higher respectively.

At the end of 2000, the highway density was 17.5 kilometers per one hundred square kilometers and 13 kilometers per 10,000 people, 8.4 kilometers per one hundred square kilometers and 4 kilometers per 10,000 people greater than in 1979. At the end of 2001, the density was 17.7 kilometers per one hundred square kilometers.

The survey results highlight outstanding achievements made with regard to the nation's highway-bridges and tunnels. At the end of 2000, China had built 279,000 highway-bridges totaling 10.312 million meters, of which 1,457 are extra-large bridges and 14,000 are fork-shaped bridges. The total length grew by 120 percent and the total number grew by 184 percent compared with the 1979 survey. At the end of 2001, China had built 284,000 highway-bridges totaling 10.65 million meters with 14,429 large bridges and 1,580 extra-large bridges.

Forty-five highway-bridges have been built over the Yangtze River and 68 over the Yellow River. The completed construction and subsequent opening to traffic of some large and extra-large bridges, especially the Jiangyin Yangtze River Bridge and the Shantou Haiwan Bridge, represents China's world-advanced craftsmanship in building highway-bridges.

At the end of 2000, the number of highway-tunnels had reached 1,684 totaling 628,000 meters in length, representing a 3.5 fold increase in number and an 11 fold increase in aggregate meters since 1979. Of these highway-tunnels, fifteen are extra-long tunnels, with lengths of over 3,000 meters each, and 135 tunnels have a length between 1,000 meters and 3,000 meters each. At the end of 2001, China had 1,782 highway-tunnels totaling 705,000 meters with 18 extra-long tunnels and 155 long tunnels.

( China Daily October 17, 2002)

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