China’s rail network will reach 150,000km by 2020, including 30,000km of high-speed lines, according to a comprehensive new plan revealed by the government this week.
Unveiled at a State Council meeting on Wednesday, which was presided over by Premier Li Keqiang, the new plan marks an expansion of the country’s previous rail strategy which was formed in 2008 and had proposed 120,000km of track by 2020. China’s Xinhua news agency reported on the meeting.
Key measures in the new plan include expanding the country’s high-speed rail network to 16 lines – eight running north to south and eight east to west. Inter-city rail networks will also be enhanced, so that no journey between neighbouring major cities will take more than four hours.
“At present, it is still a pressing task for us to expand China’s railway network. It is the lifeline of the economy,” Li was quoted saying by Xinhua during the meeting.
“When compared to developed countries similar in size, the length of China’s operating railways is still not long enough, and railway construction is important for stabilizing economic growth and structural reform especially in central and western China,” he added.
According to figures from China’s National Development and Reform Commission, China’s railway network had reached a total length of 121,000km by the end of 2015, of which 19,000km were high-speed lines. This means that the country will need to develop 29,000km of new tracks in the next four years, including 11,000km of high-speed lines, in order to meet its target.
Major new projects are expected to include the new Sichuan-Tibet Railway project, which will connect Lhasa with Chengdu.
And the funding needed in such projects is huge; in 2015 alone, China invested CNY823.8 billion (US$123.9bn) in its railway network, adding approximately 9,500km of new lines.