China would extend railways to more than 50,000 kilometers in its vast western regions by 2020, a senior railway official said on Monday.
More investment will be made in railway construction in the western regions in the coming several years to serve local economic and social development, said Yan Hexiang, deputy director of the development planning department of the Ministry of Railways.
The ministry will step up building of major railways currently under construction and push construction of more projects such as the Chengdu-Guiyang railway, Chongqing-Guiyang railway and Kunming-Nanning railway to start at an early date, Yan told a meeting on railway development in western China.
China launched the "West Development Strategy" in January 2000 to help underdeveloped western regions catch up with the more prosperous eastern regions.
The western regions comprise 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipality, which have a combined population of about 370 million and account for 71.4 percent of the country's total land area.
Since the implementation of the strategy, the operating mileage of railways in the western regions jumped 50 percent from 20,000 kilometers to nearly 30,000 kilometers at the end of 2008, accounting for 36 percent of China's total operating mileage.
China's total railway length will top 120,000 kilometers by 2020, Yan said.