Backers sought for road network

CHINA is seeking foreign investment to help construct its first trans-national highway network, the China Daily reported yesterday.

The project, outlined for the official paper by former vice-minister of communications Wang Zhangyi, involves four trans-national highways totalling 10,000 kilometres in length.

The system would link more than 100 major cities and ports and was scheduled to be completed by the end of the century, the paper said.

Detailed regulations were being drafted to entice direct overseas investment in the construction project, the paper said, without estimating the amount of investment required.

China's currently crowded road systems threaten to be a drag on the nation's booming economy.

According to a State Statistics Bureau report for March, China's transport network is now so jammed that rail and road freight volume contracted in the first two months of this year.

Disrepair and congestion in most of China's road infrastructure made building high-grade highways a priority, the paper quoted Mr Wang as saying.

Last November, Mr Park Tad-joon, chairman of South Korea's Pohang Iron and Steel Co, visited Beijing to discuss building one of the four trans-national links envisaged.

The 2,400 km stretch of highway from Beijing to Hongkong would cost an estimated US$8 billion to build.

A Pohang official in Beijing declined to comment further than to confirm that discussions took place and included China's main steel producer, Capital Iron and Steel.

China's first foreign-funded highway project, linking Shenzhen with Guangzhou at a projected cost of $800 million, is scheduled for completion by Hopewell Holdings this summer.