Sichuan plans to float its Chengyu Highway on an overseas exchange to fund construction of two other highway projects to help foster economic development in the southwestern region. An official with the Sichuan Provincial Communications Bureau said an application had been made to the China Securities Regulatory Commission for the 340-kilometre Chengyu Highway, from Chengdu to Chongqing, to issue shares abroad. It was nominated by the Sichuan government as well as the Communications Ministry to be included in the fourth batch of Chinese candidates for overseas listing. 'We are confident that approval will be given because the flotation of Chengyu Highway is in line with Beijing's industrial policy and its development plan for the southwestern region,' the official said. Beijing has listed infrastructure as a major investment focus to help speed up economic development inland. The official said Chengyu Highway would act as an overseas fund-raising vehicle for Sichuan's highway development. The province will invest 4.1 billion yuan (about HK$3.81 billion) in two highways which will eventually link it to Kunming, in Yunnan, and Zhuhai. They are scheduled for completion by 2000. The first highway will run from Neijiang, along the Chengyu Highway, via Yibin, in Sichuan, to Kunming, while the second will run from Longchang, via Luzhou and Naxi in Sichuan, through provinces in Yunnan and Guangdong to Zhuhai. The official said the Sichuan section of the first highway, measuring 107 km, would cost 2.1 billion yuan, and the second 87 km section would cost two billion yuan. 'The completion of these two highways will substantially benefit economic development and transportation in the southwestern region,' he said. He said the provincial government and the state would contribute to make up for the investment shortfall. Chengyu Highway began full operation in September last year and daily traffic has doubled to about 10,000 vehicles. The Sichuan provincial government now owns the western section, or 226 km, of the highway, while the Chongqing city government holds the 114 km eastern section. The official said it had not been decided if the whole highway or only the western section would be floated. This would hinge on approval from relevant authorities. The official said, in terms of cost per kilometre, Chengyu Highway was China's cheapest, costing less than 20 million yuan per kilometre. It is exceptionally low compared with Hopewell Holdings' Guangzhou-Shenzhen section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Zhuhai Superhighway, which cost about 73.3 million yuan per kilometre.