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Special> CPC Celebrates 90th Anniversary 1921-2011> Achievements
UPDATED: May 24, 2010 NO. 21 MAY 27, 2010
Riding the High-Speed Rails
China plans to double its high-speed railway network to make domestic transportation more convenient and efficient

Development of China's high-speed rail network began in 2004, but the vision of the nation linked by fast trains is decades old. He Huawu, a 55-year-old MOR chief engineer, has witnessed that vision take shape and speed off over the course of his career.

In 1992, He went to Europe for a field study of European railway development with an MOR delegation. During the trip, He took the Channel Tunnel, or the Eurotunnel, connecting Britain and France, the first time he had been on a high-speed railway running at 273 km per hour. At that time in China, trains could only travel at a maximum of 120 km per hour.

He was amazed by the European talent in developing such fast transportation and wondered when China would catch up. China needed fast trains, but He had no idea of when or how long it would take to build high-speed railroads in his home country.

In the early 1990s, China's railway capacity could only meet half of the cargo transportation demand, which greatly restrained economic development. For years, China mulled the possibility of building a high-speed rail network, but protest was raised because of technology and capital constraints. The high-speed rail decision was slowed until 2004 when the Central Government determined China needed high-speed railways and pushed for railway technology innovation. The Central Government also ordered the construction of the first high-speed railway between Beijing and Tianjin and said it must be put into operation within five years.

That year, He was appointed as chief engineer of MOR, taking charge of the design and construction of Chinese high-speed railways.

The first day in August 2008 marked the beginning of the high-speed rail era in China, as the Beijing-Tianjin Railway became operational one year earlier than scheduled. Soon thereafter, high-speed links sprouted up one after another across the country.

At present, more than 10,000 km high-speed railways are under construction, connecting economically developed cities in eastern and central parts of the country.

In April 2007, China increased the speed of trains by applying high technology, after which 2,876 trains could reach a maximum speed of 200-250 km per hour, the highest speed possible on existing railroads.

According to information provided by the MOR, high-speed railways are running smoothly with stable and reliable railroads, telecommunication signals, traction and power supply. MOR data show 773 high-speed trains travel across the country each day with a daily passenger transportation capacity of 845,000.

The expanding network of high-speed railways has made travel more convenient, improved people's lives and relieved the pressure of insufficient capacity.

Train cars with passengers packed in like canned sardines were widespread in the years before high-speed railways. But now, that common occurrence is becoming a fleeting memory of a slower past.

The Central Government has also adopted favorable policies to encourage railway development in terms of approval procedures, financing, land appraisal, environmental impact assessment, and research and development.

Local governments have accordingly provided for the construction of high-speed railways, as they see such development as a strategic measure to boost local economic growth.

Across the nation

By 2020, according to MOR figures, China's high-speed railway network will extend over 50,000 km, connecting all provincial capitals and cities with populations exceeding 500,000 and providing 90 percent of the country's total population with access to rails. By that time, "China will build up a comprehensive railway network which will meet the demand of national economic and social development, and the passengers and cargoes will be able to be transported freely and conveniently without obstruction," said the MOR.

China laid out the blueprint for its high-speed railways in 2004 when the State Council, the cabinet, passed the Medium- and Long-term Railway Network Plan. According to the plan, the high-speed railway development will include four "north-south" lines and four "east-west" lines.

The four "north-south" lines refer to railways that connect cities in northern and southern parts of China, including the 1,318-km Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway to connect the Bohai Sea Rim and the prosperous east coastal Yangtze River Delta regions, the 2,350-km Beijing-Wuhan-Guangzhou-Shenzhen (Hong Kong) High-Speed Railway to connect north, central and south China, the 1,612-km Beijing-Shenyang-Harbin (Dalian) High-Speed Railway to connect the northeastern and inner-Shanhaiguan Pass areas, and the 1,650-km Shanghai-Hangzhou-Ningbo-Fuzhou-Shenzhen High-Speed Railway to connect the Yangtze River Delta, southeast coastal areas and the Pearl River Delta.

The four "east-west" lines refer to high-speed railways running between eastern and western parts of China, including the 906-km Qingdao-Shijiazhuang-Taiyuan line to connect the country's northern and eastern parts, the 1,346-km Xuzhou-Zhengzhou-Lanzhou Railway to connect the northwestern and eastern regions, the 1,922-km Shanghai-Nanjing-Wuhan-Chongqing-Chengdu line to connect the southwestern and southeastern regions, and the 2,264-km Shanghai-Hangzhou-Nanchang-Changsha-Kunming railway to connect the central, eastern and southwestern regions.

The completion of the eight high-speed railways will connect China's major population hubs, making it possible for people to travel across the country with ease.

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