Rail ministry rolls out plans to raise transport capacity
The railway authority plans to move more passengers and cargo this year by improving efficiency and better co-ordinating resources.
The goal for the year is to transport 1.41 billion passengers and 3.31 billion tonnes of cargo, increases of 100 and 200 million respectively from last year. The extra capacity is expected to bring the industry 361 billion yuan in operating income, up 30.2 billion from last year, according to Railways Minister Liu Zhijun .
'It's a tough goal but we have no choice but to reach it, because the country's healthy development requires us to do that,' Mr Liu said, Xinhua reported yesterday.
The Ministry of Railways rolled out an ambitious plan in 2006 to lay 4,000km of track each year until 2010, with the ultimate goal of establishing a nationwide high-speed rail network. The majority of those projects are still under construction and will not be ready this year, however.
Mr Liu said the increased capacity would instead be squeezed from existing rail lines through better allocation of resources and use of more powerful locomotives. Rescheduling of high-speed passenger trains, which generally run at more than 200km/h, would ease delays and quell conflicts of interest among local railway administrations.
New plans would also allow passengers in some cities to buy return tickets before travelling, which should help relieve the ever-mounting pressure at railway ticketing booths, Mr Liu said.
Ticket vendors in most cities can only issue tickets for travel originating locally.
Passengers are stranded every day when they arrive at their destinations only to discover that return tickets are sold out.
Mr Liu said several large-scale cargo-transfer hubs would be built in the north this year to improve the efficiency of cargo distribution. The decision is intended to improve capacity in Beijing, the region's hub.
A new high-speed link between Beijing and nearby Tianjin will be put to use in the first half of the year, which should cut travel time between the cities from more than an hour to less than 30 minutes.
Beijing South Railway Station, which will be Asia's largest station in terms of capacity, is expected to be completed in June and should be open to the public on August 1.
The facilities would immediately increase rail passenger capacity, Mr Liu said.
Cargo transport priorities would go to natural resources, food and other strategic materials on which the country's economy relies, he said.
Railways were also less vulnerable than other forms of transport to severe weather, such as the big snowstorms that crippled transport recently, he noted, adding that railways could play a key role in transporting people and supplies during environmental emergencies.
The mainland has around 80,000km of railway and the ministry plans to increase that to more than 100,000km by 2010.
Among major construction projects, the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway has drawn the most attention. The 1,305km line will take five years to build and is expected to cost 83.7 billion yuan.
Yuan on track
The amount in yuan the ministry is planning to spend on railway construction this year 300b