Almost 40 cities in China are building or planning to add 3,000 km of urban rail lines, a report released by the Development Research Center of the State Council has said.
About 1,700 km will be laid and operational in 15 cities by 2015, as other cities anticipate a green light from the central government, the report said.
The projects are expected to cost at least 600 billion yuan ($88 billion), the report said.
The unprecedented scale of urban rail construction is integral to meeting domestic demand, Liu Shijin, deputy chief of the center, told a symposium on urbanization and rail transit development last Friday.
Insiders said most ongoing rail transit construction projects were approved in 1999, when some of China's mega-cities were confronted with problems associated with rapid urbanization, a swelling population and worsening traffic.
A number of other cities with subway plans, however, have not proceeded after the government imposed high population and financial revenue requirements, insiders said.
However, in the current situation, with urbanization continuing to accelerate and domestic demand increasing inexorably, it is possible the government will lower minimum requirements to give more cities the go ahead, Xiao Jincheng, deputy director of Institute of Spatial Planning & Regional Economy under the National Development and Reform Commission, was quoted by the Beijing Times as saying on Friday.
But he stressed that minimum requirements are still necessary because too many cities are eager to build lines that would unbalance revenue and spending, Xiao told China Daily yesterday.
If all these cities' plans are approved, total investment for urban rail transit systems of the 40-odd cities will "exceed 1 trillion yuan", one report compiler who insisted on anonymity, said yesterday.
And the later the construction starts, the higher the costs will be.
Qin Hong, deputy director and researcher of the Policy Research Center under the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, was quoted by the Beijing Times as saying it now costs almost 800 million yuan to build just 1 km of subway in Beijing, up from 100 million yuan in the past.
Affluent cities with population of more than 4 million should build subways or light rail as fast as possible to avoid spiraling costs, she said
By the end of 2006, nine cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou had built 20 rail transit lines, stretching 545 km in length, according to the report. At present, 37 other projects are under construction across the country, totaling 1,000 km in length and involving nearly 300 billion yuan of investment.