CHINA> Regional
"Poetic picture" in quake-affected area 
Updated: 2008-11-23 10:10

Pixian County, Sichuan - It is hard to imagine an ordinary villager like Wang Aimin, who survived the May 12 earthquake, describing something as "poetic." But he does.

As the construction of a 66-km express railroad between Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan Province in southwest China, and Dujiangyan is under way, the 36-year-old Wang sees in his mind's eye a "poetic picture."

He can picture the electric-powered trains speeding at 200-km per hour on the railroad flyover near his village in less than two years time, with the surroundings improving.

But the "poetic picture" has much greater ramifications for his family's well-being and children's education.

Economic Benefits at Hand

"The building of the express railroad has already brought economic benefit to my family," Wang said.

Wang leases his three-storey small building, the interior of which was damaged by the May 12 earthquake, to one of the operation centers of the builders, No.8 Bureau of China Railway Group Limited.

His family will receive 50,000 yuan (US$7,143) from the one-and-a-half-year lease of the building near the construction site, and invest it into his children's education.

"I'd definitely use the money on my child's education," Wang says. "It will help him receive a better middle school education and the next goal we set for him is university admission."

Wang, who used to repair bicycles and is now a worker with a project contractor, wants his boy to follow the suit of his cousin, who graduated from China's Tsinghua University and is teaching in Singapore.

According to Wang, many households in his Xipu village in Pixian county near Chengdu, lease their houses to the railroad constructors.

The completion of the express railroad, one major project after the May 12 tremor and a boost to tourism in Chengdu and Dujiangyan, will bring them better business opportunities and more variety of daily-life necessities, Wang said.

Domestic Demands Up

Along this railroad, such domestic demands as cuisine and accommodation business, property, education, and tourism are to converge.

"It's going to be a huge boost to the confidence of people in quake-hit areas as well as to the domestic demand," said Li Shiqiang, deputy general manager of a branch of the No. Eight Bureau of China Railway Group Limited.

The construction of the railroad, launched in November, will be completed in 2010. The electric-powered trains, with the shortest interval of three minutes, will carry 20,000 people per hour, Li says.

A total of 13.3 billion yuan is invested in this first major transportation construction project in Sichuan after the quake.

Sichuan Province will need 1.67 trillion yuan to rebuild from the quake, according to Vice Governor Huang Xiaoxiang. A total of 51,000 km roads and 5,500 km railroad would be constructed under the plan.

On November 12, the national government announced several steps, including approval of infrastructure projects and a further rise in export rebates, in a wide-ranging attempt to stimulate the economy and ease the impact of the global financial crisis.

"The construction of infrastructure will enormously spur the investment and domestic demand," says Qi Baosen, chairman of China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Company Limited.

While the employment is up, the railroad will contribute to industry expansion, income and consumption rise, and other sectors' growth, Qi says.

Opportunities, No Doubt

Li Bin, a partner of Friends-Gathering  village compound for cuisine and accommodation near the railroad construction site, has a sceptical view of railroad building.

He is first worried about the building might inevitably impair the road in front of his compound, which already sees a business downturn after the quake.

But the railroad builders dig only a short and narrow part on one side of the road and the transportation of railroad construction raw material on the road assures him "no worries."

Then, he receives his first business from the construction, accommodating project monitors from Beijing for months.

"It's obvious the railroad will be an opportunity for the business," Li says.

He is now researching the possibilities of providing boxed food to construction workers, about 50,000 at the peak of construction, as well as more variety of food to tourists when the railroad is completed.

An advertisement board near the construction site says, "When the railroad is completed, housing price jumps," suggesting people to take their decision of buying an apartment in the county before the business boom in areas along the express railroad.

For villager Wang Aimin, buying a new apartment will not be a choice because he says he invests his money into his children's education. When he moves back to his house he leases now to the railroad builders, he will be closer to his "poetic picture."