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China to build more high-speed railways (3)

(Xinhua)

08:43, October 03, 2012

The trains will run on the Hong Kong section of an inter-city high-speed railway connecting Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The deal marked the first time for a Chinese company to sell high-speed trains to Hong Kong.

Foreign leaders have shown interest in Chinese high-speed railway. During her visit to China in April, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra rode a high-speed train from Beijing to Tianjin. At the end of the 33-minute trip, traveling about 120 km, she said it is convenient and Beijing and Tianjin seem to be one city.

Thailand and China signed an agreement on strengthening railway cooperation during Yingluck's visit, according to a joint statement issued by the two governments.

Passengers are returning to China's high-speed rails. Some 52.6 million passengers traveled on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway in its first year of operation, which ended on June 30. More than 144,000 passengers on average travel on the line daily.

While more major Chinese cities are getting connected with high-speed lines, a larger network is under plan to link all cities with a population of 500,000 people or greater.

According to the five-year plan, China will form a 40,000-km-long network, composed of lines with an operational speed of 160 km-plus per hour, by the end of 2015.

But it remains uncertain whether all the projects specified in the plan can be accomplished, as the Ministry of Railways, the main investor for China's rail projects, faces a heavy debt-to-asset ratio of as much as 60 percent.

The capital-strapped ministry issued a statement earlier this year inviting private investors to participate in the funding of rail projects. The ministry promised it will treat private capital and public funds equally.

Ye said private capital has been reluctant to enter the sector, as it has been plagued by poor efficiency and backward management. She has repeatedly urged for more reforms in the sector.

Wang thought the invitation lacks details. "Private capital will be very cautious about entering the railway sector unless there is a good profit distribution scheme for all parties involved."

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