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Trains steaming faster still
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-23 09:22

Preliminary projects on the fifth nationwide railway speed-up programme have been completed and new railway operation timetables are expected to go into effect by April 18, a senior Ministry of Railways official said Sunday.

The newly-renovated high-speed railways, which can operate at speeds of 160 kilometres an hour and above, will cover 7,700 kilometres, the railway minister Liu Zhijun said at a national railway conference.

The latest railway speed-up will bring China's high-speed railways to more than 20,000 kilometres of track.

"Meanwhile, the ministry is mapping out a sixth nationwide railway speed-up, which is scheduled to be launched next year," the director said.

At that time, the speed of some trains on the nation's arterial railways will be accelerated to 200 kilometres an hour, reaching speed-up targets for current railways in developed countries, Liu added.

Describing the two speed-ups as a "major task" in the development of the nation's railway industry, Liu said they will help modernize the nation's rail networks and improve transport capacities.

According to the nation's mid-or-long-term railway network programme - to be implemented beginning this year - by 2020, the total of the country's operational railway lines will amount to 100,000 kilometres, with busy lines separating cargo from passenger trains.

So future decades will witness a 2 trillion yuan (US$241 billion) injection into railway construction, Liu said.

To maintain the sustainable development of the railway industry, the ministry is stepping up its efforts to reform the current financing system and will introduce stock-holding systems in the industry, Liu said.

"Both domestic and overseas capital are encouraged in railway construction projects," he said.

"Meanwhile, railway departments are pushing to establish some joint-stock companies and attract capital in the form of stock-holding systems and are exploring a new pathway for rail construction and its operational management," Liu said.

Though suffering a great loss resulting from the SARS epidemic, the nation's railway transport revenue in the past year reached 148.34 billion yuan (US$17.9 billion), up 2.3 per cent compared with the previous year by 3.2 billion yuan (US$385.5 million).

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