BEIJING -- The building of a multi-billion-dollar high-speed railway linking Beijing and Shanghai could be underway as soon as the middle of January after six companies were confirmed as winners of the construction bids.
Sources with the contractors said construction of the rail line would commence before Spring Festival, which falls on February 7, with mid-January the earliest possible time.
Civil engineering work on the 1,318-kilometer railway is expected to cost 83.7 billion yuan and is divided into six sub-contracts.
China Railway Construction Corporation which built the Qinghai-Tibetan Railway, Shanghai Maglev train, Beijing-Kowloon Railway and the western railway across Hong Kong, took the lion's share of 40.3 percent, or 33.74 billion yuan (about $4.64 billion), through its two subsidiaries, the No. 12 and No. 17 Bureaus.
China Railway Group Limited secured the second largest share worth 21.965 billion yuan($3.02 billion), about 26.2 percent, through its No.1 and No. 3 Bureaus.
The other two smaller contractors are Sinohydro Corporation and the China Communications Construction Company, each responsible for more than 16 percent of the project, worth around 14 billion yuan (about $1.97 billion).
The railway ministry's chief engineer He Huawu told the Dongfang Daily in late December that China aimed to use the project to develop an advanced express railway technology system, with 70 percent of the technology developed domestically.
"The principle is to introduce up-to-date foreign technologies, tap into them by carrying out joint design and manufacturing and cultivating a local brand name," he said.
China hopes to run the China Railway High-speed (CRH) train with a speed of 350 kilometers per hour on the new railway. The latest model of CRH series with a speed of 300 kilometers per hour, rolled off the production line only last month.
Sources close to the project said that apart from the civil engineering, bidding and procurement for other relevant projects ranging from the signal system to the construction of the upgraded CRH trains will soon start.
The Beijing-Shanghai Express Railway project, which has been under discussion for more than ten years, officially kicked off in late December after the inauguration of the Beijing-Shanghai Express Railway Company Limited.
With an estimated total investment of 160 billion yuan ($21 billion), the railway, upon its completion after 2013, will cut travel time between the Chinese capital and its economic hub from the present 10 hours to about five hours, doubling the existing transport capacity of 160 million passengers annually.
By 2020, China will have 12,000 kms of express rail lines, with 16 new express passenger rail lines put into place, linking provincial capitals and large and medium-sized cities, as well as cities in the booming Bohai Sea, Yangtze and Pearl River regions.
The construction of such lines is aimed at substantially enhancing the country's rail transport capacities, as stated in the country's mid- and long-term plan on railway networks.
The 115 km express rail line connecting Beijing and Tianjin will become the country's first to allow a maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour. Track laying on the route started in November.
The line will be ready for operation in time for the 2008 Olympic Games in August, and will shorten the journey between Tianjin and Beijing from 70 minutes to around 30 minutes, according to Liu Rong, director of the railway construction project.