China will build at least 5,000 kilometres of expressways next year, bringing the total length of expressways in the nation to over 50,000 kilometres by the end of 2007, Minister of Communications Li Shenglin said on Friday.
Meanwhile, the national highway trunk system will be completed next year.
Li Shenglin told a Beijing conference that 4,460 kilometres of new expressways had been built and opened across China this year.
China currently has 45,400 kilometres of expressways, the second-longest in the world only after the United States, which had 90,000 kilometres in 2005.
According to the country's expressway plan, China will have 85,000 kilometres of expressways by 2020.
Between 2006 and 2010, China will build 24,000 kilometres of new expressways, equal to the combined total in Canada and Germany, which rank third and fourth in the world in terms of expressway length.
China is also building a national highway trunk system, composed of five north-south highways and seven east-west highways, with a total length of 35,000 kilometres.
Li said that the remaining 2,385 kilometres would be completed in 2007.
China currently has 3.48 million kilometres of roads, including those in rural areas.
About 260,000 kilometres of roads were either newly built or upgraded in rural areas, thus benefiting more than 30,000 villages and 30 million villagers.
In 2006, 8,711 bus stations were newly established in the countryside, offering rural residents in nearly 20,000 villages the chance to take a bus ride to nearby towns for the first time.
The ministry has also saved farmers 2.5 billion yuan (US$312.5 million) in 2006 thanks to the nationwide "Green Channel" network which opened in 2005.
Composed of 43,000 kilometres of highways and expressways, tolls are either waived or cut for farmers using these channels to transport agricultural products.
The ministry will take more steps next year to benefit farmers. Li said 300,000 kilometres of new rural roads would be built next year.
It is estimated that 18.4 billion people travelled by bus and 210 million people travelled by ship in 2006, increasing by 8.7 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.
Source: China Daily