Before we discuss the colossal railway expansion plan estimated at $36 billion, let’s first talk about the existing railway network in the People’s Republic of China. Like many other countries, China’s rail transport system has an important role to play in long distance travel and transportation.
According to stats from 2015, China is reported to have 121,000 km of railway, the second largest railway network after the United States of America and this number includes 20,000 km of high-speed rail (HSR).
It may be the second largest railway in the world in terms of distance covered, however, the 20,000 km of HSR tracks is second to none as of September 2016. It would be good to know that any train with a potential speed of 200+ km/h is internationally categorized as High-Speed Rail (HSR).
China’s HSR tracks are the longest in the world and may equal the rest of the world’s HSR tracks combined. The pan-China HSR covers twenty-eight of the country’s thirty-four provinces and regions, over 85percent of the combined provinces and divisions – no mean feat!
To add to the already one of the world’s largest railways, the recent approval of 247 billion Yuan ($36 billion) by the country’s top economic planning agency is aimed at enhancing rail transport connectivity between capital Beijing, the port city of Tianjin, and cities in the Hebei province up north.
The long-term vision is to integrate the three regions into one mega-city and HSR is an important cog in the wheel of a larger plan – the so-called megacity Jing-Jin-Ji.
The initial phase of the plan includes widening of services and network, up gradation of stations in smaller cities to bring them at par, better cooperation between national and provincial networks, among various other measures.
The immediate effect of the approval, however, seems to be the rise observed in the share market. China State Construction Engineering Corp closed 10 percent higher, China railway Grouping registered more than 5% up, while, China Communications Construction Co surged 6.5 percent including companies that plan to benefit from the mega plan.
The project, with an overall size of 1100 km (683 miles), will be completed over a span of 9 tasks, as announced on the internet by the Nationwide Improvement and Reform Fee, one of China’s reputed financial planners. The reported timeline for these projects is said to be 2020 and can extend up to 2030 to achieve the long-term goal of a well-connected megacity.
It’s a welcome announcement considering factors like:
* Substantial reduction in travel time between the three cities and provinces in question.
* Ease of doing business as a result of the drastic cut down in travel time.
* Will encourage more of tourism traveling between the regions, thereby contributing to the economy and culture, as well.
According to Steve McCord, research head at real estate service firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), “It was not possible to go all the way from Beijing to Binghai and that’s a one-hour trip now. It’s now also possible to go between Tianjin and Tangshan in less than 30 minutes, which was previously several hours’ drive,” he said.
“I think there are few places in the world that have that kind of integration. It has made it much easier to do business.” He added.