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China rushes to expand transportation networks

Daily Commercial News

China will spend more than $12 billion (U.S.) on railway construction this year, almost double last year’s amount, as it rushes to expand its overloaded transport networks, state media reports

Frenzy of construction includes $12B for railways

SHANGHAI

China will spend more than $12 billion (U.S.) on railway construction this year, almost double last year’s amount, as it rushes to expand its overloaded transport networks, state media reports.

The government plans to more than double the length of its expressways network over the next 30 years to 85,000 kilometres from the current 34,000 kilometres, the official Xinhua News Agency cited Zhang Chunxian, minister of communications, as saying last Thursday.

With its railways turning away two-thirds of cargo due to lack of capacity, China is engaged in a frenzy of transport construction: modern deep water ports, slick new airports, even a train route line across Himalayan permafrost into Tibet.

The expressways network, virtually nonexistent 20 years ago, includes seven routes extending from Beijing, nine from north to south and 18 from east to west, the report said.

Eventually, it will connect all Chinese cities with a population above 200,000, it said. An expanded network should make it easier for trucks to transport goods.

The estimated cost of such construction is two trillion yuan ($242 billion U.S.), Zhang told a news conference in Beijing.

In decades past, most highways even to major cities were only two-lane roads, lined by windbreaks of skinny trees. Now, cities like Shanghai are encircled and crisscrossed by elevated highways, underwater tunnels and numerous ring roads.

Expressways traverse countless mountain ranges and huge waterways like the Yangtze River and Yellow River. But many remote villages are still reached only by foot paths.

Despite its ambitions to develop a modern highway system, China’s top priority for now is expanding and upgrading its overloaded railways. The Ministry of Railways will launch 58 new projects and continue 48 existing ones in 2005.

Spending on such construction will almost double over the amount spent in 2004 to 100 billion yuan ($12 billion U.S.), the railways minister, Liu Zhijun, told a conference in Beijing.

Beijing authorities are signing agreements with provincial governments to gain access to land and financing for the projects.

They will also seek corporate and foreign investment and issue bonds to help support the massive building effort, the report said.

Though most construction is likely to be handled by domestic firms, France, Japan and Germany are among countries hoping to win major contracts for high-speed rail lines.

The Associated Press

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