A total of 1.8 trillion yuan ($260 billion) is expected to be invested in road and rail transport infrastructure projects next year, Minister of Transport Li Xiaopeng said at an annual working conference on Dec 26.
“The country has stepped up efforts to bolster areas of weakness in infrastructure construction, and has increased support for land use, sea use and environmental assessments,” Li said.
Much of the investment will go toward the building or renovation of 200,000 kilometers of roadways in rural regions, and efforts will be strengthened to ensure economically struggling villages are connected with other regions, he said.
One of the ministry’s main targets for next year is to continue supporting the construction of roads in underdeveloped areas so as to ensure they have highway access by 2020, he said.
Official statistics showed 30.46 million rural residents still lived below the national poverty line as of the end of 2017.
So far this year, 88.3 billion yuan has been invested in building rural roads to help alleviate poverty, with the amount invested up 14.6 percent year-on-year, the ministry said.
Yang Xinzheng, an expert at the China Academy of Transportation Science, said, “Better transportation will lead to more effective development and utilization of minerals, energy and tourist resources in poor areas, thus accelerating the pace of poverty eradication.”
In Ningxiang county, Hubei province, 2,000 km of new rural roads have spurred tourism, created 12,000 jobs and increased average per capita annual incomes by 15,000 yuan, he added.
There were 4.01 million km of rural roads in China by the end of 2017, accounting for 84 percent of the country’s road network. An average of 200,000 km of rural roads have been built or renovated each year between 2013 and 2018, according to the ministry.
In another development, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic regulator, gave the go-ahead on Dec 25 for a high-speed railway project linking Xi’an and Yan’an in Shaanxi province, which will have a total investment of 55.16 billion yuan.
The 292-km line will be designed for a top speed of 350 km/h, and construction is expected to take nearly a half decade to complete.
China has increased infrastructure spending on airports and railways recently to stabilize investment and spur slowing economic growth.