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Minister of Railways talks about the early realization of convenient rail transportation
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14:11, September 15, 2009

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When New China was founded, China had a total of only 22,000 kilometers of railways in operation, which at the end of 2008 had increased to 80,000 kilometers.

From 1997 to 2007, the speed of China's railways increased six times, significantly boosting economic and social development.

The Beijing-Tianjin inter-city railway, which was put into operation on August 1, allows trains to run as fast as 350 kilometers per hour, the fastest railway operating speed in the world. It is known by domestic and overseas media as "China speed."

Liu Zhijun, Party secretary and minister of the Ministry of Railways (MOR), spoke proudly about the development of China's railways, saying "'China speed' refers to the speed of both China's high-speed train and to China's economic development. Over the 60 years since the founding of New China, in particular since the 30 years of reform and opening-up, the railway industry has changed significantly along with the great ascent and transformation of the entire country. "

Increased railway speed brings substantial benefits to the public

Nowadays, more people are paying attention to the "increased speed" and "high speed" of railways, regarding this as a new "locomotive" to promote economic and social development.

"The best example is the "one-city effect" which started along with the launch of the Beijing-Tianjin inter-city railway. This line has effectively advanced regional economic development and changed people's life style," said Liu.

Aside from the Beijing-Tianjin inter-city railway, Hefei-Nanjing, Hefei-Wuhan, Shijiazhuang-Taiyuan and other special passenger lines have successively been put into operation since the beginning of last year, so more common people have benefited from high-speed railway services.

The rapid development of China's high-speed railway was based on six railway speed increases implemented between 1997 and 2007. As an organizer, Liu has close emotional ties with the process, saying "the imbalance between China's railway transportation capacity and demand has long been striking.

The implementation of speed increases on existing lines is the most effective way to expand transportation capacity within the shortest period of time. The six railway speed increases have enhanced transportation capacity with relatively low costs and in a short time.

The fifth and sixth railway speed increases alone enhanced transportation capacity by over 50 percent. In particular during the sixth speed increase, numerous China Railway High-speed (CRH) trains started running between trans-regional core cities or among densely urbanized regions with a speed reaching 200 to 250 kilometers per hour, marking China enter into the high-speed railway era.

The six railway speed increases and the development of high-speed railways offer more substantial benefits to the public, with which Liu is satisfied. He added, "The railway industry has launched multiple passenger transportation products such as ordinary passenger trains, night passenger trains, non-stop trains and CRH trains, offering people more travel options. "

The current running time for inter-city trains between provincial capitals or major core cities has generally been halved compared with that prior to the first speed increase, making rail travel faster and more convenient. The introduction of numerous new types of passenger trains, the all-round upgrade of old trains and in particular the launch of CRH trains offers passengers quality train journeys and more comfortable travel.

Liu noted that following the CPC 16th National Congress, large-scale railway construction has commenced across the country. At present, the combined length of new lines under construction stands at 30,000 kilometers; the figure is expected to reach 50,000 kilometers in 2012, including 13,000 kilometers of special passenger lines. The construction of special passenger lines such as the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway and inter-city railways among densely urbanized regions is progressing smoothly. Meanwhile, a large group of modern passenger railway stations with a full range of functions and sufficient handling capacity have achieved a seamless transition with subway, public buses and other means of transportation, allowing passengers to make a "zero-distance" transfer and increase the convenience of traveling.

Fast development of railway freight provided strong guarantee for economic development

After the founding of the PRC, the railway, as the main artery of national economy, has achieved great progress in freight transport, and made great contribution to economic construction and national defense construction.

In 2008, China's total railway freight transport volume was 3.3 billion tons, about 60 times as large as that of 1949; the total rail freight transport reached 2.4817 trillion ton-kilometers, 135 times as large as that of 1949. By now, China's railway has completed 25 percent of the world's transportation volume with only 6 percent of the world's operating railway mileages. Its transport efficiency ranks first in the world.

Railway provided strong support for the development of west China, the rise of central China, the rejuvenation of old Industrial bases in Northeastern China, the prior development of Eastern China and the construction of a new socialist countryside. Liu said, "The Qinghai-Tibet Railway is a great feat in the world's railway construction history. With tremendous effort and courage, the railway constructors and the workers of the operating units made great achievements in solving the three universal difficulties of permafrost, high altitude anoxia and ecological fragility, successfully constructed a world-class railway and realized its safe and steady operation." In the three years, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway has transported 8.99 million passengers and completed a total freight volume of 6.97 million tons in the section from Geermu to Lhasa. It effectively promoted the economic and social development of Qinhai Province and the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Liu explained, "Since 2003, we have been developing heavy-haul transportation relying on independent innovation, and has taken up a dominant height in the stage of global heavy-haul transportation. In the Daqin Railway, we adopted the new technologies such as high power locos, heavy axle load trains and synchronous control system, and deliver 10,000-ton and 20,000-ton heavy-haul trains in high frequency. In 2008, the coal freight volume of the railway reached 340 million tons, 3.4 times as large as the designed capacity, and the railway became the railway with highest annual freight volume of the world. It is a miracle in world's heavy-haul transportation."

While talking about the role that railway plays in economic development, Liu said, "Over 90 percent of China's railway freight capacity serves to guarantee the transportation of the key goods and materials that are closely connected with the national economy and the people's livelihood. China's over 85 percent of timbers, 85 percent of crude oil, 80 percent of iron and steel as well as the materials for their smelting, 60 percent of coal and a great amount of materials for "agriculture, rural area and farmers" are transported by railway. While dealing with various natural disasters such as flood, snow storm, frozen rain and earthquake and handling various types of emergency incidents, the railway played an irreplaceable role in transporting people and materials."

While mentioning the further expanding of railway freight capacity, Liu got very excited. "During the large-scale railway constructing, we will accelerate the construction of the regional trunk lines and coal transport lines that connect the eastern, central and western regions of China. By the end of 2012, China will have constructed new regional trunk railways of 13,000 kilometers in total, forming extremely capable railway freight channels from east to west and from south to north."

A historical opportunity to accelerate the development of China's railways must be treasured

When New China was first founded, there were only 22,000 km of railways nationwide, half of which were not in use. Following 60 years of construction, and in particular 30 years of development since reform and opening up, at the end of 2008 China had incresed the mileage of operating railways to 80,000 km. The quality of the railway network had also changed significantly. The railway speed, which was as low as less than 60 km per hour, had been increased to between 140 and 160 km per hour, and at present high-speed railways with a speed of 200 to 350 km per hour have been constructed. Railway technologies and equipment have developed from the steam locomotive, and internal-combustion engine and electric locomotive age to enter an era of high-speed multiple unit trains.

"Since the 16th National Congress of the CPC, China's railways have ushered in a rare golden opportunity. China's rapid railway development during these years is firstly due to the guidance of the Scientific Outlook on Development. The Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council made an important decision to accelerate railway development. The State Council approved a middle and long-term railway network plan, ascertained the objectives and measures of the modernization of railway technologies and equipment and drew up a grand blueprint for China's railway development, indicating the direction for good and rapid railway development and providing a powerful momentum," Liu said.

"The great railway development also benefited from China combining original and integrated innovation with digesting and absorbing outside influences as well as re-creation, and successfully opening a self-innovative road suiting China's national conditions and railway situations during reform and opening-up. The development is also thanks to the significant increase in China's comprehensive national strength and the solid foundation of railways laid over the past 60 years," Liu said. He added, "Generations of railway workers have worked hard and made great contributions. They have not only built a solid material foundation, but also inherited valuable spiritual wealth. It is on the basis of this kind of foundation that we can create a more brilliant today and tomorrow."

China's railways have better development prospects

At present, China's railways are entering a splendid new chapter by accelerating railway construction and development. Liu said that in terms of the scale of the country's railway network, at present China ranks third in the world, following only the U.S. with 270,000 km of railways and Russia with 85,000 km. By the end of 2009, China will have 86,000 km of railways, to rank second in the world.

"The next three years from now to 2012 will be an important period for China's railway development. By 2012, the mileage of China's railways in operation will increase from the current 80,000 km to over 110,000 km, and electrification and double-track rates will reach more than 50 percent respectively." In terms of future railway development, Liu disclosed that by 2012, China's advanced and well-equipped railway network will take initial shape, pressure on railway transportation capacity will be preliminarily eased and the "difficulty traveling by taxi and purchasing train tickets during festivals" will be significantly improved. Not only will cargo transportation capacity be markedly increased, but passengers will also be able to fully enjoy faster, more convenient and more comfortable services.

Looking to 2020, Liu said in full confidence, "By then, China's railway modernization will be essentially realized. Main railway lines will separate passenger and cargo tracks and inter-regional main railways connecting east, west, south, northe and central China will be fully constructed. The mileage of railways in operation will reach over 120,000 km, including 18,000 km of exclusive passenger lines. In densely urbanized areas, inter-city railway networks will be built. China's transportation capacity will generally meet the demands of national economy and social development. The general public's long-dreamed wish for 'people to travel conveniently and cargo to be transported smoothly' will really come true."

By People's Daily Online

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