Highway grid to be finished by 2015: MOT

09:23, May 27, 2011      

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The nation's highways will connect more than 90 percent of cities with a population of more than 200,000 by the end of 2015, according to a report released by the Ministry of Transport Thursday.

Sun Guoqing, director of the planning department of the Ministry of Transport, said at a press conference Thursday that by the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the national highway network will be basically completed, and its total length will reach 108,000 kilometers.

China had no highways before 1988, while by the end of 2010, the length of highways under construction was 74,000 kilometers, coming a close second to the US. According to statistics, both the US and Japan spent more than 40 years building their national highway networks, while China will have spent only half of that time to do it, China News Service (CNS) reported.

The rapid rate of construction has resulted in various problems, such as the illegal charging of toll fees.

"Without the policy of charging tolls on the roads, there would not have been the achievement in the present Chinese transport situation and the development of roads in the countryside," Weng Mengyong, vice minister of transport, said at a press conference earlier this year.

Pan Xiaojun, director of the fixed asset investment department of the National Audit Office, said that the policy of "building roads with loans and then repaying the loans through tolls" will continue for a certain period in the future, reported CNS.

But according to a report from the Beijing Municipal Audit Bureau, by the end of December 2004, the Beijing section of the Beijing-Shijiazhuang highway had collected 1.7 billion yuan ($262 million) in tolls and made a profit of about 600 million yuan ($92 million) after repaying its loans.

Some roads also reportedly have irregularities in charging tolls. The Shandong-based Jinan Daily reported that 16 provinces and municipalities including Hubei and Liaoning provinces built 158 illegal tollbooths on 100 roads that earned about 14.9 billion yuan ($2.29 billion) by 2005.

"Against the backdrop of high living prices, the high tolls from the highway have increased the cost of social operation and people's economic burdens," Zhou Minliang, a researcher at the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Beijing-based The First.

Zhou suggested that the tolls from highways be gradually abolished, and the relevant departments should make their financial situation known to the public.

Zhang Zhuting, a professor at the Transport Management Institute affiliated with the Ministry of Transport, does not think the abolition of tolls will be a trend in the future.

"Without charging tolls, the public will be responsible for maintaining the roads by paying taxes, which is unfair to those who don't usually use the highways," Zhang said.

Source: Xinhua
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