Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Railway Ferry Service Across Qiongzhou Straits Begins

The century-old dream of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the vanguard of the Chinese revolution, consisting of traveling by train from the Chinese mainland straight through to Hainan Island, became a reality Tuesday morning.


Railway Ferry Service Aacross Qiongzhou Straits Ready
The century-old dream of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the vanguard of the Chinese revolution, consisting of traveling by train from the Chinese mainland straight through to Hainan Island, became a reality Tuesday morning.

China's first-ever maritime rail service was launched on Tuesday morning with the loading of a locomotive, two freight train cars, and a number of trucks onto a railway ferry.

The ferry left Hai'an on the southern tip of Leizhou Peninsula, Guangdong Province, around 9:15 am and reached Nangang Port of Haikou, the provincial capital of Hainan, after a voyage of 50 minutes across the Qiongzhou Straits, which separate Hainan Island from the Chinese mainland.

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Bangguo cut the ribbon at the inauguration of the maritime railway service. Among the attendants to the grand ceremony at Nangang Port of Haikou were high-ranking railway officials and local government officials from both provinces.

Hainan, with a population of eight million, is China's largest special economic zone. It has a land area of 35,000 sq km, a marine area of 2 million sq km, and a coastline of 1,500 km.

The lack of access has slowed economic development on the island, which has few industries and a well-developed tourism industry. Hainan is also home to various subtropical and tropical agricultural products.

The maritime rail service, part of the Guangdong-Hainan railway connection linking the two provinces, consists of a 139-km railroad from Zhanjiang to Hai'an on the Leizhou Peninsula and the 12.5-mile cross-strait ferry service, and the 182-km railroad on Hainan's west coast from Haikou to Sanya, a popular seaside resort on the southern end of the island.

Du Huirong, deputy general manager of the Guangdong Hainan Railway Company, said though using ferries to take trains across the Qiongzhou Straits could not compare with a marine tunnel in terms of time efficiency, transport capacity, ability to combat strong winds and tides, and comfort, it was the best choice for the time being as the marine rail service was cheap and able to meet shipping demands.

At present, the ferry service only handled freight cars, and passenger carriages would follow later this year, said Du.

Building a tunnel under the Qiongzhou Straits is estimated to cost over 20 billion yuan (about 2.41 billion US dollars).

The entire railway connection, on which work began in August 1998, will cost 4.5 billion yuan (about 542 million US dollars). The line from Zhanjiang to Hai'an has been in use since December 2001.

Three ferries will eventually ply the Qiongzhou Straits. The first pair will cost 400 million yuan altogether (about 48.19 million US dollars).

The ferry used in Tuesday's maiden voyage was designed by the No. 708 Institute of the China Shipbuilding and Trading Company and built at the Shanghai Shipyard.

The 12,400-ton ship which cost 210 million yuan (25 million US dollars) has passed a raft of tests and met design requirements.

With a minimum speed of 15 nautical miles per hour, the ferry is 165.4 meters long and 22.6 meters wide. Its main deck, built for a standard load of 4,200 tons, can hold a 40-car freight train or an 18-car passenger train.

Its cabins are up to the standard of a three-star hotel to provide a comfortable service for passengers. It is also equipped with a black box, radar, a fireproof lighting system, lifesaving gear and safe exits which together ensure an evacuation in 30 minutes or less.

The ferry is gauged capable of safely navigating in gale-force winds, according to Yu Baojun, its chief designer.

A second similar ferry is due for service in April this year.

The railroad from Haikou to Sanya would be ready for traffic late this year, said Du.

Fu Zhihuan, Minister of Railways, said as an important part of the Guangdong-Hainan railway connection, the marine rail service linked the mainland and Hainan Island and put an end to the lack of a through train service.

"The Guangdong-Hainan railway connection is of great significance for promoting social and economic development in both provinces," Fu said.

Guangdong, one of China's economic powerhouses, is one of the country's leading export processing bases, while Hainan, China's biggest special economic zone, has grown slowly and remained comparatively backward due to its transport difficulties.

With the new railway link in place, exchanges of personnel and goods between Hainan and the Chinese mainland would be greatly improved, Fu said.

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Railway Ferry Service Across Qiongzhou Straits Ready

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