The World Bank yesterday granted Beijing a US$200 million loan to help build the 152-kilometre Heifing-Anqing Expressway. The loan will help cover almost half of the $453.9 million overall cost of the project which forms part of 35,000 kilometre national trunk highway System, in which the bank has played a key funding role. 'This new highway should give Anhui an economic boost by providing a more efficient connection to the country's deep-water ports and trading centres,' bank country director for China Yukon Huang said. The funding will also be channelled into an analysis of traffic black spots, where accidents occur at a rate two or three times greater than in Western Europe or North America. In addition 240 km of existing provincial highways will be widened to ease congestion. The loan is being funded from the World Bank's International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and matures after 20 years, with a five-year grace period. The bank sees the construction of highways as a key tool to ease income disparity, particularly between the richer coastal areas and the inland provinces, and this month it was reported to have also helped build the 81 km Xuanxia Expressway in Fujian. It has also provided a $230 million loan to build highways in the depressed regions of Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and the province of Gansu. The bank has put another $250 million towards the national highway trunk system, which it hopes will develop expressway corridors.