Poor city to be linked to high-speed railway

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 March, 2011, 12:00am

Guangdong's high-speed railway ambitions have extended to one of the province's poorest cities, Heyuan, despite doubts whether the project will be financially viable.

Guangzhou Daily reported yesterday that Heyuan party chief Chen Jianhua had announced that a high-speed railway line connecting the city to Guangzhou and Shenzhen would be complete by 2015 or 2016.

Heyuan, in northeastern Guangdong, about 150 kilometres from Shenzhen and Guangzhou, is one of the poorest cities in the nation's wealthiest province.

Guangdong suffers from a yawning income gap, with official figures showing that per capita gross domestic product in remote parts of the province was only a quarter of that in the Pearl River Delta in 2009.

The newspaper said construction of the project would begin soon, with experts from the provincial railway design institute to begin preliminary research in Heyuan this week. Trains will travel at up to 450km/h, with passengers able to travel from Heyuan to the provincial capital or central Shenzhen in just 30 minutes.

Chen said the project was part of an extension of the Guangzhou-Meizhou -Shantou high-speed railway project.

He added that Heyuan would benefit from 21 key provincial projects, including five big roads, during the 12th five-year plan, with total investment exceeding 100 billion yuan (HK$120 billion).

Ding Li, a regional planning expert with the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said there were concerns whether Heyuan's high-speed railway could be profitable. 'Can the income of Heyuan people afford a 30-minute journey to Shenzhen or Guangzhou?' Ding said. 'I know for sure that the Heyuan government cannot afford such infrastructure.' However, he said he expected that the Guangdong government and the Ministry of Railways would chip in for the project, which would add to intercity rail links.

Delta transport expert Professor Zheng Tianxiang of Sun Yat-sen University said he had learned that the project was a supplement recently added to the province's 12th five-year plan. He said the Heyuan government would be expected to provide land for the project by acquiring it from local residents, while the ministry would be responsible for construction and operation.

Zheng said he expected that revenue from passengers would not be able to cover the cost of building the line, but that the project could help boost tourism in Heyuan and the city's property market.

The mainland began investing heavily in high-speed rail lines from 2006, and the central government has budgeted 3.5 trillion yuan for high-speed railway projects in the 12th five-year plan (2011-15).

In about five years' time, Guangdong should have high-speed railway lines connecting most cities.

High-speed trains already run frequently from Guangzhou to Wuhan, with intercity links between Guangzhou, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhuhai.

It costs about 100 million yuan to build one kilometre of high-speed line.

Haves and have-nots

Guangdong, though wealthy, suffers from a yawning income gap

Per capita GDP in remote parts of the province was this percentage of that in the Pearl River Delta in 2009: 25%