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Guangzhou delays metro launch
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-24 07:51

Amid rising outcry over widespread fears about the national economy overheating, the Guangzhou municipal government has decided to defer construction of its Metro Line 5 because of great pressure from the local people's congress and the local committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Guangzhou Municipal Committee of Construction Director Chen Rugui revealed the government's decision at his work report to local people's congress last weekend.

The local people's congress and the local CPPCC committee are the city's legislature and political advisory body respectively.

The city's 41.6-kilometre-long Metro Line 5, which is estimated to cost more than 16 billion yuan (US$1.93 billion), was originally planned to begin construction in this provincial capital city in South China on May 28.

But the government has been receiving considerable criticism from a growing number of local deputies from the Guangzhou People's Congress and members of the local CPPCC committee since the construction schedule was made public.

Liao Shufang, a deputy from the local people's congress, said construction of Guangzhou's metro projects has been too rapid and the city's investment on metro construction has been overheated.

The large input into metro construction would affect construction of the city's highways, light railways and other transporta-tion facilities, Liao said.

"The government should do what it is capable of in terms of metro construction," Liao said.

Guangzhou People's Congress Deputy Director Zheng Guoqiang urged the government to increase investment into construction of other transportation facilities while expanding funds to build the city's metro projects.

What has antagonized local people's congress deputies and local CPPCC members most is that the Guangzhou Metro Corporation, which has put two subway lines in operation, has debts valued at more than 7.6 billion yuan (US$919 million) because of the large input into metro construction in previous years.

Guangzhou already has another two metro projects, Metro Line 3 and Line 4, which have started construction.

Earlier this year, Guangzhou officials announced plans to invest more than 66.9 billion yuan (US$8.1 billion) into building 14 subway lines before 2010.

Apart from bank loans, the government annually has to invest more than 4 billion yuan (US$483.7 million) in metro construction between 2004 and 2010.

Guangzhou Metro Corporation General Manager Lu Guanglin has also confirmed that his company has been required to delay the construction of Metro Line 5, which runs from Fangcun District in the western part of the city to Huangpu Port in Huangpu District in the city's east end.

Lu said that Metro Line 5, which includes 29 stations, has been scheduled to start services in 2007.

"When the construction (of Metro Line 5) will begin is still unknown, as we have to seek more advice from our experts and engineers to come up with a more rational and economical metro line," Lu said.

Lu has promised to build the planned Metro Line 5 into a profitable project when it starts service in the coming years.

The Guangzhou Metro Corporation will expand partnership with its Hong Kong counterpart in the future, particularly to absorb more metro management experience. Hong Kong is one of the cities where metro projects are profitable.

Meanwhile, Lu's company is considering a price reduction to attract more passengers in the years ahead.

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