BEIJING -- China plans to invest 300 billion yuan (US$41 billion) to lay 7,820 kilometers of railway in 2008, the Ministry of Railways said on Friday.
"A batch of new projects will start construction this year, and the building of the high-speed railway linking Beijing and Shanghai is the most important one," said Railway Minister Liu Zhijun at a national work conference.
Earlier reports said the construction of the multi-billion-dollar Beijing-Shanghai railway could be underway as soon as the middle of January after six companies were confirmed to have won the tender.
Liu said the new railways should use state-of-the-art technologies and meet the world's highest standards.
China will have 15,000 kilometers of new railways built and put into operation in the following three years, with 7,000 kilometers being passenger-only high-speed tracks. The total railway length will reach 120,000 kilometers by 2020.
From 2003 to 2007, China invested a total of 522 billion yuan (US$71.5 billion) in railway construction.
Liu predicted that passengers would make more than 1.4 billion rail journeys in 2008 and the cargo transported on railway would exceed 3.3 billion tons, generating a total revenue of 361 billion yuan (US$49.5 billion).
He said priority must be given to the transport of coal, grain, fertilizer, cotton, disaster-relief materials and people's daily necessities.
He also said China would strengthen international cooperation in the railway sector, including the construction of the pan-Asian railway network and technical cooperation with developed countries.