Thursday 4 March 2010
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China: Big spending on high-speed rail pays off

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The recently built Wuhan-to-Guangzhou high-speed railway, which costs 17.1 billion U.S. dollars and allows trains to race at an average speed of 350 km/h, has made train trips between the cities a breeze. The trip previously took at least 11 hours, now it takes only three.

High-speed trains had moved 1.11 million passengers since the start of the travel season on January 30.

Another high-speed railway from the central city of Zhengzhou to Xi’an in the northwestern Shaanxi Province was also seeing similar attendance rates.

Statistics showed that, in the two months since line’s opening on Dec. 26, 2009, 2.32 million people traveled on its high-speed trains.
The high-speed trains greatly relieved traffic pressure during the travel season, the world’s largest human migration and an annual test for China’s transport system.

The government’s enormous spending on high-speed rail has been questioned from time to time.

“New things tend to be questioned when they first appear,” said Zhuang Jian, senior economist with the Asian Development Bank, comparing the current criticisms to the negative public reaction to the government’s initiatives in building expressways in late 1990s.

“In retrospect, the expressways built at that time have played a very important role in assisting economic growth and integrating the national market,” Zhuang said.

Zhuang also cited China’s large population and vast area as factors making high-speed rail necessary.

The high-speed lines from Guangzhou to Wuhan and from Zhengzhou to Xi’an are just two of 42 high-speed lines recently opened or set to open by 2012 in China.

A network of high-speed railways would dramatically “shrink” the country, support a more integrated nationwide market and promote cooperation between the eastern coastal areas and the relatively backward inland regions, Zhuang said.

(Source: Xinhua Agency)

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