High-speed rail spearheads China's efforts to boost economy: legislator

22:00, March 03, 2010      

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As Chinese policymakers endeavor to whip up domestic demand to maintain steady and rapid economic growth, Yu Zhuomin believes he has found a right path: the high-speed rail.

"Just look at the new Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway," said Zhuo, a deputy from central China's Hubei Province to the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature. "Its effect on boosting regional economic and cultural exchanges is immeasurable."

The opening of the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway has accelerated the integration of the Pearl River Delta, the country's economic power house in the south, and the central provinces of Hubei and Hunan by greatly shortening travel time between the regions.

Before the high-speed railway was put into use in December, it took 11 hours to travel more than 1,000 kilometers between the two cities by train but now it takes only three hours via the express.

"To the provinces and regions that build high-speed railways, the network has becomes a vanguard for local economy and social development," said Yu, who is now in Beijing to attend the NPC annual session that opens on Friday.

China currently has about 3,300 kilometers of operational high-speed railways, on which bullet trains gallop at an average speed of 350 kmph and it plans to expand the network to 13,000 kilometers by 2012, according to the Ministry of Railways.

As part of the 4 trillion-yuan (585.7 billion U.S. dollars) economic stimulus package, China invested about 600 billion yuan (about 88 billion U.S. dollars) in railway construction last year, an upsurge of 80 percent.

The government has earmarked a record 823.5 billion yuan (120.7 billion U.S. dollars) for 2010 to further expand its railway network.

"The massive investment in railway construction last year fueled the demand for 20 million tons of steel and 120 million tons of cement while creating about 6 million jobs," said Yu, also chief of Wuhan Railway Bureau.

Last year, China completed two long distance high-speed railways, with one between Wuhan and Guangzhou, and the other between Zhengzhou and Xi'an. Before that, China had built high-speed railways between Beijing and Tianjin, Shijiazhuang and Taiyuan, Qingdao and Jinan, Hefei and Wuhan, and Hefei and Nanjing.

A number of new high-speed railways are under construction or will be finished in the coming few years, of which the Beijing-Shanghai line has a length of 1,318 km and a designed travel speed of 350 km/h.

Railway passengers topped a record 1.53 billion last year. Cargo transportation hit 3.32 billion tons, according to the Ministry of Railways.

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