Network to slash travel time
Guangzhou and Shenzhen are spending billions of yuan to build transport hubs that will provide connection points for high-speed rail lines and urban rail services, as well as air travel, creating a network that promises to dramatically shorten travelling time between Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
Shenzhen, which already has four such transport hubs, is now building another four, says Zhao Penglin, deputy secretary general of the Shenzhen municipal government.
The mainland's first comprehensive transport hub, Lo Wu (Luohu) station on the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border, was built in 2004 at a cost of 500 million yuan.
It provides a terminus for intercity train services as well as urban rail stations serving Shenzhen. Passenger traffic through the hub now totals 600,000 a day during peak periods, said Zhao, who was speaking at the International Forum on Urban Mass Transit in Shanghai.
In Shenzhen, two extensive transport hubs, Shenzhen North and Futian, provide a connection for high-speed rail services to Guangzhou and Wuhan, and will eventually connect Hong Kong and Beijing via high-speed rail systems. The two centres, which started operating last year, together cost 7 billion yuan (HK$8.51 billion).
The transport centre at Shenzhen airport, which is already operating, will be upgraded to a comprehensive transport hub with additional rail links next year, while the Shenzhen East one will be completed next year, and the Chegong Temple centre in 2016.
The Qianhai centre, which will be completed next year at a cost of over 5 billion yuan, is located in a development zone in west Shenzhen, which the Shenzhen government aims to develop into a shipping and logistics centre that will promote co-operation with Hong Kong.
It will have three urban rail lines as well as rail links with the cities of Huizhou and Dongguan in the Pearl River Delta.
In Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, the local government plans to upgrade Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport into a big transport hub by adding rail connections, said Zhang Guohua, vice-chairman of the Transportation Institute of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design.
Baiyun airport would have an intercity rail connection to Shenzhen, and another intercity rail link to Huizhou and Shantou cities in Guangdong by 2015, Zhang said.
It would also have rail links to the northern and southern Guangzhou high-speed rail stations, forging connections between air travel and high-speed rail, Zhang said.
Baiyun airport's passenger throughput soared from 37 million in 2009 to 45 million last year, making it the second busiest airport on the mainland and 19th in the world.
'At the current rate of growth, China will overtake the US to have the world's highest aviation traffic by 2015.
'It is a necessity for airports to connect with high-speed rail, intercity rail and urban rail,' Zhang said.
The government in Guangzhou planned to increase the number of its transport hubs from five to seven by 2015, said Liu Guangwu, vice-general manager of the Guangzhou Metro Corporation.
The transport centre in the Nanhai financial district, which began operating in November 2010, has 55,000 square metres of commercial space, 95,000 square metres of office space, 86,000 square metres of residential property, and 25,000 square metres of hotel facilities.
It serves a dual purpose of providing transport and also property development.
'This will create new financing channels, lower our short-term funding pressures and reduce the amount of government investment,' said Liu.
The hub for Guangzhou's southern high-speed rail station in the Panyu district began operating in 2010. Although the area around it is now farmland, 6.4 million square metres of urban construction is planned around the station, Liu said. In Hong Kong, the West Kowloon transport centre would start operating high-speed rail services to Shenzhen and Guangzhou in 2015, said Ruan Songfan, general manager of the West Kowloon transport hub.
But according to Liu, various challenges still confront the development of mainland transport centres.
'Local governments lack the organisation to effectively co-ordinate different transport modes.
'China's laws for comprehensive transport hubs need improvement. Even now, Guangzhou's laws for underground commercial operations [often found in transport centres] are unclear.'
Li Min, deputy chief engineer of the Beijing Urban Engineering Design and Research Institute, said as a result, in developing the centres many problems were encountered, such as difficulty in getting land and relocating residents.
The number of minutes it will take to travel from Hong Kong to Shenzhen when high-speed rail links open in 2015