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Full steam ahead for rail plan
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The development of China's railway network will include the construction of 548 railway stations within the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10), a senior official from the Ministry of Railways, said yesterday.

"Twenty-eight new stations have already been completed, 58 are under construction and 210 are in the design stage," Zheng Jian, the ministry's deputy chief engineer, told China Daily.

Last month, Beijing South - the largest in the country - and Tianjin railway stations opened for business at the two ends of a new high-speed intercity service, he said.

In the coming years, as more high-speed routes are added, the ministry plans to develop six passenger transport hubs - Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Xi'an and Chengdu - and 10 regional hubs, with local railway stations upgraded to deal with the increased numbers of travelers, he said.

But it is not only the hubs that are looking to upgrade their facilities, Zheng said.

In Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, for example, plans have been drawn up to build a station with 30 platforms, more than at Beijing South, he said.

Local governments have realized that their existing railway stations are too small to satisfy the demands brought about by rapid economic development, he said.

"Cities like Hangzhou and Nanjing know that being linked to the high-speed rail network will have a hugely positive impact on their economies, and that is why they want to build big stations, Zheng said.

"However, we will continue to stress that while the construction of large railway stations is fine, they must adhere to the basic principles of economy and not be overly lavish in their decoration," he said.

One Beijing woman said he was pleased to see all the new railway stations being built in the capital.

"Railway stations are no longer shabby or overcrowded like they used to be," commuter Zhang Tao said yesterday.

"They are more like airports," she said.

Under the Ministry of Railways' mid- to long-term plan, the nationwide, high-speed rail network will be extended to 12,000 km by 2020.

(China Daily September 2, 2008)

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