China set out goals for a mid-and-long term, more comprehensive plan for building a rail network, during a State Council meeting on June 29, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.
Endorsing rail as a key means of transportation and a lifeline for China’s economy, the new plan targets more balanced national rail construction, bringing greater accessibility to more parts of the country. It also vows to build a comprehensive transportation network along with road, water and air transportation.
Premier Li stressed at the meeting that developing the rail sector remains of crucial importance to China.
“At present, it is still a pressing task for us to expand China’s railway network. It is the lifeline for the economy,” Premier Li said.
“When compared with developed countries, the density of China’s operating rail is low, and railway construction is important for stabilizing economic growth and structural reform, especially in central and western China,” he added.
In 2008, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued a national rail plan, targeting an operating rail network of more than 120,000 km by the year 2020. The new plan approved on June 29 is an upgrade of the 2008 plan.
According to the new plan, by 2020, China’s railway network will reach a total of 150,000 km, of which about 30,000 km will be high-speed railway. Key measures include expanding the high-speed rail network to eight rail lines north to south, and eight lines east to west. Inter-city rails will also be gradually enhanced to ensure that rail travel between neighboring large- and medium-sized cities will take no more than four hours.
NDRC statistics show that by 2015, China had an operating rail length of 121,000 km, of which 19,000 km was high-speed rail.
Over the past several years, high-speed railways have been developing rapidly, making transportation between big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai and lower-tier cities much more convenient.
The new plan also envisions boosting rail construction in central and western areas to achieve a more balanced development among regions.
During the meeting, Premier Li pointed out that more innovation is needed to resolve problems and difficulties encountered in rail development.
“We should seek innovation in developing China’s railway projects with both social and economic implications in mind, and this new proposal should be planned well in advance with consideration not only given to demand but also financial feasibility,” Premier Li stressed.
He also said during the meeting that China Railway, China’s national railway operator, needs to press ahead with its reform and work hard to build a modern corporate system, financing through various market channels, in order to play a key role in the country’s railway development.