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Railroad Building in China

Railroad Building in China

One of the major challenges facing by China is how to maintain an eight-percent growth rate this year among the extreme financial crisis gripping much of East Asia. Domestic demand stimulation, particularly injection of massive infrastructure investments, is part of the answer. This contains large-scale railroad building; in reality railroad construction has developed into one of the major engines for China's national economy.

On March 29, the State Council made a decision relating to the ninth Five-Year Plan. It decided to invest $30 billion in railroad building during the next five years, or $11 billion more than the figure for the eighth Five-Year Plan. It plans to build 5,340 km of new railroads and 2,580 km of double-tracks for present lines, electrify 4,400 km of railways, and add another 1,000 km to the local railroad system in this way, increasing the nation's total operating mileage to 68,000 km in the third year of the plan and over 70,000 km by the fifth and last year of the plan.

Railroads play an important role in the transportation system of China, a country with a vast territory and a huge population. The country now has 65,000 km of railroads in process, including over 11,000 km of which are electrified. More than 15,000 locomotives, 34,000 passenger trains, and 540,000 freight trains are currently in service across the country. Annual total passenger-transport volume stands at 920 million people, with cargo volume amounting to 1.62 billion tons.

However, the system still fails to satisfy the needs of the country's modernization drive and growing international trade. In reality, transportation density for the main railroads has exceeded the saturation point, and utilization has come close to the limit of loading capacity. In the central and western parts of the country, low density of railroads coupled with a flawed layout of the original railroad network, has long been hampering the exploitation of huge natural resources. Therefore, the backward national railroad system has become a major bottleneck for China's booming economy.

Under these circumstances, the accelerated expansion of the railroad system will play a major role in boosting nationwide economic growth by bringing about more even development in different regions, absorbing excess labor, and promoting a unified national market.

As is well known, railroad construction needs a huge investment and engages a long chain of related industries. Larger investments in this field will, like a locomotive engine, drive the expansion of a large number of secondary industries such as iron and steel, machinery, energy, building materials, and electronic equipment.

The relevant infrastructure projects for the coming five years will be arranged as follows:

● Accelerated construction of passenger lines with an emphasis on the building or technical revamping of those that link most important economic zones, thus extending routes across the country; special attention will be focused on southwest China, where the transportation deficiency is severe;
● Accelerated building of new, all-purpose railroads, with an emphasis toward the central and western parts of the country;
● Renovation of existing railroads through modernizing equipment further by taking advantage of the latest high-tech processes;
● Prioritizing these projects to maximize their social and economic impact.

The ninth Five-Year Plan envisages a T-shaped railroad network. An East-West "big artery" will be built along the Yangtze (Changjiang) River starting from Sichuan Province in Southwest China. It will be connected to another North-South "big artery" along the East coast, starting from Harbin in northeast China.

This plan turns out to conform with the vision of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, put forth in his national construction program decades ago. Construction of this grandiose T-shaped railroad network would add wings to the economic development of China's vast hinterland in the southwest.

Meanwhile, on the agenda will also be construction of the first high-speed railroad linking Beijing and Shanghai. The new 1,300 km railroad, with a capacity for speeds of up to 250 km per hour, is planned for completion in ten years. Its construction would greatly improve the current situation, which lags far behind the transportation needs of the vast region between the two main cities.

Expansion of China's national railroad system on such an extraordinary scale in the coming five years should lay down a solid foundation for pushing the entire Chinese economy to new heights. By happy coincidence, it would serve the same purpose as did the construction of six transcontinental railroads in the United States in the last century. This locomotive will certainly pull the train of China toward an earlier realization of the long-cherished national dream of modernization.


Tags

railroad network, transportation system, railroad system
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