The National People's Congress will probably debate and vote on the delayed Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway at its annual meeting in March, according to state media. Construction of the project was initially scheduled to start last year, with the first trains running in 2010. But the China Business Times reported that finishing date was unlikely to be met. It said the estimated cost of building the line had risen from 130 billion last year to 200 billion yuan. This staggering increase was the key reason the project had failed to gain State Council approval, the newspaper said. The 1,464km line would have 24 stations, including Tianjin , Jinan , Xuzhou , Bengbu and Nanjing , serviced by trains travelling at more than 300km/h. It would cut the train journey from Beijing and Shanghai from 14 hours to five and has been put forward as a solution to increasing pressure on rail travel between the two cities. NPC deputies yesterday said they had not been notified that the railway project would be put on the meeting's agenda. Luo Yifeng , an NPC deputy from Beijing, said it would be impossible for the legislative body to debate and vote on the project. 'It's not in the NPC's judicial power. I think it would only be decided by the NPC's Standing Committee. Even the water division project from south to north didn't pass by the NPC at all,' Mr Luo said. 'I think the railway project is likely to be discussed in group meeting of Beijing and Shanghai NPC deputies.' But Yu Baofa , another NPC deputy, said it was possible the NPC could discuss the controversial project. 'In my opinion, the high-speed railway is very significant because the train will save a lot of time ... but I would focus on whether the increased cost has been caused by corruption,' he said, adding that he would support the project if all the spending details were reasonable. Yan Shaohua , director of the Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Nanjing , said he would be happy to see the project submitted to the NPC. 'It will be a great act if we can participate in the debate involving such a huge project. I am looking forward to asking related experts to explain every detail, including the cost overruns and what kind of technologies they would adopt,' Professor Yan said.