Whistle blows for high-speed train

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-11 07:06

Work on the much-anticipated Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway project is likely to start this year as China's top railways officials gave a call yesterday to step up preparations.

Minster for Railways Liu Zhijun told the national working conference that the country would pump in 256 billion yuan ($32.8 billion) into railway construction projects this year and part of it could go to the high-speed train project. This year's investment of $32.8 billion is 65 percent more than in 2006.

The ministry had earlier announced that the project would start by the end of 2006 and be completed by 2010. But somehow, work on the project hasn't started till now.

The high-speed trains, running at 300 kilometers an hour, are expected to shorten the travel time between Beijing and Shanghai to 5 hours.

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The minister said the major part of the railway would be completed by 2010 as planned. But to make sure the goal is achieved, "efforts must be made to win the support of the central and local government departments". Also, breakthroughs are needed in preparation work, including environment assessment and preliminary examination of land to be used in the project.

The ministry also has plans to start work this year on the high-speed locomotives to be used on the Beijing-Shanghai and Beijing-Guangzhou lines, he said.

The construction of Beijing-Tianjin intercity railway should follow the plan and be completed before 2008 when the Olympic Games are to be held in Beijing.

According to the timetable, bridges along the line will be completed by August this year, tracks will be laid in October, and the work on the station facilities will begin in November.

The ministry plans to lay 2,099 kilometers of new tracks, convert 2,347 kilometers into double lines and electrify services on 2,019 kilometers.

The railways are expected to carry 1.365 billion passengers and transport 3.06 billion tons of cargo.

Last year, the ministry pumped in 155.3 billion yuan ($19.9 billion) into railway construction projects an increase of 76 percent over 2005. Also, it laid 1,040 kilometers of new tracks and converted about 1,000 kilometers into double lines.

The total length of railways in the country has reached 76,600 kilometers, the highest in Asia and third in the world.

The minister, however, said railway projects under construction and those about to begin before the end of 2007 will need an additional 1,000 billion yuan ($128 billion) in the future.

To fill the huge fund gap, the ministry will intensify the reform of its financing mechanism this year.

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