China plans unprecedented railroad construction in 2005

China plans unprecedented railroad construction in 2005, investing more than 100 billion yuan (12.05 billion US dollars) in 58 new projects and 48 extended projects, sources at a high-level seminar on railway network construction said.

The seminar, aiming to provide advice for the country's ambitious railway blueprint, was hosted last Sunday by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planning body.

Experts attending the workshop agreed that railroads should play an indispensable major role in China's transportation system for its features of large capacity, good security record but small land coverage, energy consumption and pollution.

Railway development, they acknowledged, has bottlenecked and lagged behind the fast-growing development of highways and civil aviation in recent years. The construction of railways cannot meet the actual demand of the country's booming economy.

China needs a big advance in railroad construction to ensure its long-term economic development, they said. In order to facilitate the huge railway construction, China must resolve tough challenges in adopting advanced technical standards, ensuring construction quality and attracting more investment.

"Apart from the speed and scale, the coziness of passengers should also be taken into account in planning railway construction," said well-known railway expert Feng Zhijun, also a member of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress (NPC). "New railways have to be people-oriented."

According to the Ministry of Railways, 48 new projects were planned in 2004, with a total cost of some 500 billion yuan (60.24 billion US dollars). The total length of planned passenger lines reaches 3,220 km, which is unheard of in the world's railway history.

In 2004, the State Council, or the Chinese central government, approved the country's long-term railway construction plan. According to the plan, China will invest more than 2 trillion yuan (241 billion US dollars) to extend its railway network from 74,000 km to 100,000 km by 2020.

People's Daily Online ---