ALTHOUGH railways in China have witnessed much growth, they still fail to meet the demand of the fast-growing economy, according to the Ministry of Railways. The department has laid down guidelines for reform and development in the industry and has made clear its desire to link up with its foreign counterparts, the China Daily said. According to the ministry's own development plan, China will build 6,600 kilometres of new tracks, 4,100 km of multiple-track railroads and 5,600 km of electrified railways, to reach a total length of 60,000 km by the end of next year. Deputy Railway Minister Shun Yongfu outlined the figures at an international conference called 'An Integrated Strategy for Infrastructure in China', held in Beijing recently. By the end of the year, a record 3,500 km of new and multiple-track line should have been laid, according to Mr Shun. Between 1991 and last year, China completed 2,813 km of new lines, 2,111 km of multiple-track lines and 1,925 km of electric rail lines. Since the country began making reforms and opening to the outside world in 1979, demand for railway transportation has increased steadily. Mr Shun said demand would become even higher with the consistent, rapid and healthy development of the national economy. Over the past 15 years, the total of rail lines in operation increased from 48,600 km to 53,800 km. Passenger volume in the period increased from 807 million to 1.04 billion, with cargo volume jumping from 1,075 million to 1,567 billion tonnes. Last year, rail transport density per km reached 29 million tonnes, ranking China first in the world. But Mr Shun said the country's railway transport was under great pressure, especially in the south, east and southeast. 'Transport all over the country can only satisfy 60 per cent of demand, he said. 'In congested sectors, it is a meagre 40 per cent. And traffic sometimes gets unbearably crowded, especially during holidays.' Specific breakthroughs had to be made to accelerate the development of railways, Mr Shun said. China also had to introduce market economic practices into the railway transportation industry, gradually reforming railroad pricing systems. The ministry should encourage railroad transportation companies to develop diversified economies of scale. 'We must continue to learn and draw lessons from the advanced experiences of railway systems abroad,' Mr Shun said. 'And we sincerely look forward to widening the scope of co-operation with our overseas counterparts on the basis of mutual benefit.'