China set forth new goals on June 29 for a long-term, more comprehensive plan for the country’s rail network, including 150,000 kilometers of rail lines by 2020.
The plan was approved at a State Council meeting that was presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.
It endorses rail as the country’s key form of transportation and the lifeline for China’s economy.
The plan also calls for more balanced rail construction to increase accessibility to more of the country, and it vows to build a comprehensive network combining rail, road, water and air transportation.
“It is still a pressing task for us to usher in the development of China’s railway. It is the lifeline for China’s national economy,” Premier Li said.
Compared with developed countries of a similar size, the length of China’s operating railways is still not long enough, the Premier said. Railway construction is important for stabilizing economic growth and structural reform, especially in central and western China, he added.
By the end of last year, China had 121,000 km of operating rail lines, including 19,000 km of high-speed railways, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.
In 2008, the NDRC issued a national rail plan that aimed for an operating rail network of more than 120,000 km by 2020.
The plan approved on June 29 is a revision of the 2008 plan and targets a network of 150,000 km by 2020. Of this, 30,000 km will be high-speed rail.
Key measures include expanding the high-speed rail network connecting major cities and other urban areas to eight rail lines running north to south and eight going east to west.
Intercity rail lines will also be enhanced.
Once the plan is achieved, rail travel between neighboring major and medium-sized cities will take from one to four hours.
The plan also envisions boosting rail construction in central and western China.
Comprehensive rail development is vital for China in maintaining stable growth and structural reform, Premier Li said.
“We should seek innovation in developing China’s railway project with both social and economic implication in mind, and this new plan should be planned well in advance with consideration not only given to demand but also financial feasibility,” Premier Li stressed.
China will spend 800 billion yuan ($120.5 billion) this year on building railways, said Wang Dongming, deputy director of the Institute of Comprehensive Transportation of the NDRC.
Expanding the rail network is a form of investment in fixed assets to prop up slowing economic growth by providing more employment opportunities and reducing logistics costs, Wang said.
“The central government is to balance regional development, and less-developed regions will benefit from the new plan with more access to convenient railways,” Wang added.