China is planning to spend around $500bn on the further expansion of its high-speed rail system over the next three years. The network will expand from 20,000km of dedicated passenger lines to 30,000 kilometers by 2020, according to a State Council Information Office briefing.
The aim is connect all cities with a population of more than 2 million with a main line, and all cities with more than 5 million people with a high-speed link. This will entail creating a 38,000km system by 2025; the conventional network will expand by another 20,000km, Railway Gazetter reports.
Yang Yudong, the administrator of the National Railway Administration, said at the briefing that private investors would be invited to participate in funding the expansion.
He added that rail lines would be used to stimulate economic activity in the poorer western regions, even though initially they would be loss-making. "We believe these lines will break even over time as the flow of people and goods experience fast growth," he said.
At the end of last month, construction began on the Guiyang to Nanning high-speed railway in the less developed southwest region. This 482km, 350km/h link will cut travel time from Nanning to Guiyang from more than 10 hours to about 150 minutes, said Ding Rongfu, chairman of China Railway Airport Construction Group, told the China Economic Net website.
This project, which will be complete in 2022, will involve constructing 106 tunnels.
China’s is also continuing to expand its international rail network, opening its first direct line to London on New Year’s Day.
The service runs from the Chinese city of Yiwu, in eastern Zhejiang province, to Barking in the eastern outskirts of London. The journey lasts for an average of 18 days and covers more than 12,000km, according to a Chinese government website.
A container can be moved from China to the UK in around 18 days, half the time required to transport it by sea. London will become the 15th European city to be connected to China’s Silk Route 2.0.
Image: China has more high-speed rail track than the rest of the world combined (usarmyband/Flickr)