Rail chiefs talk up rapid link
The Ministry of Railways yesterday touted the benefits of the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway to Guangdong and central China, days after a damning official report blamed many ministry officials for last year's fatal crash.
Analysts also say Hong Kong will benefit from being connected to the system in 2015.
Since the 968-kilometre Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed service started in December 2009, 54.6 million passengers have ridden the nation's first such service, the ministry says on its website. The rail service extended to Shenzhen on December 26.
'This high-speed railway will transform the economies of the provinces of Hubei, Hunan and Guangdong, with the transfer of hundreds of billions of yuan of industrial assets and changing the relations between the industries and resources of Wuhan, Hunan and the Pearl River Delta,' the ministry says.
In 2010, 228 contracts were signed that transferred industrial assets from Guangdong to Hunan, bringing Hunan 90 billion yuan (HK$110 billion) in investment, while in the first half of 2011, a further 1,330 industrial projects shifted from Guangdong to Hunan, which brought 1.41 billion yuan in additional tax revenue to Hunan, the report says. Last July alone, Guangdong companies invested 28.8 billion yuan in 11 projects in Hubei, including electronics, machinery and logistics.
Last year, partly due to the Wuhan-Guangzhou line, Hunan's tourism revenue rose 22 per cent to 174 billion yuan, while Guangdong's tourism revenue soared 28.4 per cent to 199.7 billion yuan.
The chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council, Willy Lin Sun-mo, said the line would bring economic benefits to Guangdong and central China. 'This is one reason why later in the first quarter I will take a Hong Kong business delegation to Wuhan, co-organised by the Trade Development Council and the government, to explore investment opportunities for Hong Kong companies,' Lin said.
'This high-speed rail will, of course, benefit Hong Kong. We expect millions of people to travel to Hong Kong for shopping. That will be great.'
Anthony Wong, past president of the Hong Kong Logistics Association, said the high-speed railway would be a good catalyst for promoting business between the two places.
'They carry businessmen much faster between two places,' Wong said. It takes roughly three hours to travel between Wuhan and Guangzhou.
Li Zhongjie, logistics director of Wuhan International Container Transshipment, who has travelled on the line, said there were many more tourists from Hong Kong and Guangdong travelling to Wuhan.
During Liu Zhijun's tenure as Railways Minister, the line was chosen for the country's first long-distance high-speed service instead of the Beijing-Shenyang line.
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, is the home town and power base of Liu, who was sacked and arrested in February last year.
The official report of the accident that killed 40 people last July said Liu had played a leading role in the disaster near Wenzhou city, Zhejiang province. The report said Liu raised the speed of the Wenzhou high-speed railway from 200 km/h to 250 km/h without authorisation, shortened the rail construction period, which compromised safety, and failed to set up systems to check potential safety problems. The report also blamed 53 other people, including Deputy Railways Minister Lu Dongfu.
Nevertheless, a Hong Kong transport professor says the report falls short of expectations. 'It just focuses on reprimanding internal staff. How about the responsibilities of external consultants and suppliers?' he said.