The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China has given the go-ahead to a $36bn project to build a state-of-the-art rail network between Beijing, the port city of Tianjin and their surrounding towns, cities and airports.
The Beijing and Tianjin Intercity Rail Network, as the project is called, is part of a wider plan to expand the Beijing-Tianjin region into an 82,000-square-mile megacity with a population of 130 million people.
The 1,000km network will contribute to the "Jing-Jin-Ji" project by connecting all the main cities, and many of the towns, within a 60-minute radius of Beijing and Tianjin.
The project will include subway systems for city cores, overground suburban lines for commuters and high-speed links between major cities.
The South China Morning Post reports that up to 27km of subway lines will be built in Beijing this year, extending the network to 554km.
The subway’s average speed will be between 60km/h and 70km/h, and suburban trains will reach a top speed of 160km/h.
Zhou Zhengyu, director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport, told the newspaper: "This means the travelling speed of suburban rail services will dramatically increase. Trains will be expected to finish the whole journey in 40 to 50 minutes."
The project encompasses nine main lines:
- Beijing to Bazhou (78km)
- Beijing to Tangshan (149km)
- Beijing to Tianjin Binhai New Area (98km)
- Beijing to Shijiazhuang (293km)
- Chongli Railway (67km)
- Lanfang to Zhuozhou (65km)
- Capital Airport to Beijing New Airport via Langfang (160km)
- Ring Line Langfang to Pinggu (88km)
- Gu’an to Baoding (106km)
The first route in the network will be the Pinggu Line linking central Beijing to one of its suburbs through the Hebei’s Yanjiao township.
The project will be implemented by the China Railway Corporation and is due to be completed by 2020.
The NDRC calls for the use of an "innovative finance model" and "diversified investment channels", although it does not give any further details of how the private sector could be involved in the project.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, the first freight train to make the trip between Tianjin and Minsk set off last week.
The locomotive hauled 104 containers of construction materials through Inner Mongolia to China-Belarus industrial park and free trade zone. It is set to arrive at its destination on Sunday (4 December).
Image: A CRH3C high-speed train on the Tianjin-Beijing line (Creative Commons)