China to build over 4,000 km of new railway tracks

Beijing – China plans to build at least 4,000 kilometers of new railway lines this year, including 2,000 km of high-speed lines, the country’s top rail operator said on Thursday.

The planned development of new railways this year is part of the nation’s effort to maintain large-scale fixed-asset investment, Lu Dongfu, general manager of China State Railway Group, said at its annual work conference.

The Ministry of Transport said in December that China would spend at least 2.7 trillion yuan ($386 billion) on transport infrastructure projects this year, with 800 billion yuan going to railways.

In 2019, 802.9 billion yuan was spent on railways in China and 8,489 km of new track became operational, surpassing the annual targets of 800 billion yuan for investment and 6,800 km of new lines.

As a result, the nation’s fast-expanding railway network reached a total length of 139,000 km by the end of last year, while the high-speed rail network exceeded 35,000 km, a year ahead of China’s plan to build a total of 30,000 km of high-speed railway lines by 2020.

Among the 51 new railway lines last year, the opening on Monday of the high-speed route linking Beijing and Zhangjiakou, co-host city of the 2022 Winter Olympics, marks significant progress in the autopilot system of China’s high-speed trains. Equipped with the system, trains can run automatically at a maximum designed speed of 350 km per hour.

As for this year, measures will continue to be taken to bolster areas of weakness in the nation’s railway infrastructure, Lu said.

Construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, the second railway into the Tibet autonomous region after the Qinghai-Tibet line, will be a major project this year, he said.

The company called for preparatory work to take place on the project’s official launch, including optimizing a plan for organizing early construction of certain sections, pushing forward the railway’s initial design, and drawing up its specified technical and management standards.

Lu also told the conference that the total revenue of the rail transport sector increased 6.1 percent year-on-year in 2019 to 818 billion yuan, and it is expected to reach 868 billion yuan by the end of 2020.

In a bid to make the company more market-oriented and capable of providing better cargo and passenger transport services, it will establish a mechanism for evaluating the profits of train operations and thus better organize rail services.

It will also explore more flexible pricing mechanisms for high-speed trains and offer deeper discounts on a growing number of railway lines, as well as start piloting the application of digital ticketing throughout the network.

Zhang Xiaodong, a professor of rail transportation economics at Beijing Jiaotong University, said, “Since the opening of China’s first high-speed railway, the Beijing-Tianjin line, in 2008, the country has constructed more high-speed rail lines than Japan and Europe did in 40 years.”

The construction of high-speed railways in China saves passengers travel time and has assisted regional economic development, he said, adding that it also played an important role in boosting the flow of talent and information and reshaping China’s economic map. (China Daily)